Students filed onto the Lodi Middle School blacktop Thursday morning to hear about the dangers of drugs and alcohol from police and a deputy district attorney. But for a school still mourning, the assembly couldn’t escape Tuesday’s horrific crash that took the lives of a classmate and his family.
The school held a moment of silence for seventh-grader Irving Miranda, 11, who attended the school, as well as his sister Stephanie Miranda, 4, brother Jose Miranda, 5, father Luis Miranda, 30, and pregnant mother Vivian Rodriguez, 31.
The only family member to survive was 9-year-old Eden Miranda, who is in a hospital and remains in critical condition.
Just two days after learning that Irving’s bubbly spirit would no longer beam through halls of Lodi Middle School, students shared hugs and wiped away tears.
“We’re trying not to forget a loving friend,” said 12-year-old Jason Ordinola, a seventh-grader, who played with Irving on the school’s soccer team.
Standing in front of hundreds of students and teachers, Principal Scott McGregor applauded the unity throughout the campus since the tragic crash.
“We had a horrific thing happen,” he said. “And first, I want to say that never have I been so proud to be a part of anything in my entire life. You guys stepped up. Your hearts swelled with sympathy and grace and you took care of one another. You pulled together and you were just fabulous.”
During an assembly about choices, McGregor acknowledged reports from witnesses, who claimed a man driving freeway speeds and talking on his cellphone caused Tuesday’s crash.
“We’ve seen a lot of things here that help us remember the importance of choices,” he said. “Somebody made the choice to get into a car and drive erratically. And the choice that person made took the lives of an entire family.”
Lodi Police Officer Ryan LaRue and San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Tori Verber-Salazar spoke to the students about the side effects of drugs and alcohol. Officers also displayed how their K9s search a vehicle for narcotics.
And for the first time since the wreck, Thursday’s assembly gave students the chance to laugh.
Lodi and Stockton Port police officers simulated a vehicle pursuit on a field in front of the crowd. Two police vehicles tailed a van around the grass, until the driver came to a stop.
When he stepped out of the car and refused to surrender, officers released a police K9. Students erupted in laughter when the K9 bit the padding on the criminal’s arm.
But one more suspect needed to be subdued.
McGregor emerged from the vehicle, wearing heavy padding on his upper body. When officers tried to place him under arrest, McGregor broke free, before the K9 quickly got him to the ground.
As students filed back to class, McGregor asked that they remember Thursday’s message.
“Everything we do can have an effect on not just our life and the path that we’re on, but our loved ones, our friends, everyone around us. Hopefully it was a moment that allowed the kids to be able to grasp that message and hopefully ponder it in the future.”
Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.