“All the preparation they did prior will make a world of difference to him,” she said. “It doesn’t mean he won’t need support, but it means those last moments were given meaning and purpose.”
Cordova-Pena only wanted one beautiful child, said her husband Luis Pena. The pair first met at Miami Jackson High School when he was a senior and she a junior, but they didn’t start dating until they reconnected as students at Miami Dade College. When they married, Cordova-Pena, who earned a degree in criminal justice, was eager to focus on her dream of becoming a law enforcement officer and having a child, Pena said. She got a job as a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent at Miami International Airport and applied to the police academy.
“She was so happy when they accepted her,” said Pena, a federal corrections officer at the Bureau of Prisons. “She was always studying, studying, studying. Her graduation from the academy was the best thing that ever happened to her.”
In 2006, Cordova-Pena went to work at the Northwest District, always staying on top of her son’s education.
“My wife made a point of meeting every single teacher and saying, this is my phone number. If he acts up in school, you call,” Pena said
After two years at the station, she joined the community service team, said Maj. Ignacio Alvarez, working with neighborhood crime watch groups and organizing events for the young and old. The job, he said, was perfectly tailored for her outgoing personality and relentless drive to help people. Even before her diagnosis, Cordova-Pena was a champion for breast cancer awareness.
“You would dread walking by their door, because in October you might as well bring all your extra dollars because you just had to buy a bracelet or a keychain or a T-shirt or a pink badge,” Grimes said.
At his mother’s funeral, Adreyan said a young woman introduced herself and said her mother had died when she was 14. When Cordova-Pena, who used to dress up as Mrs. Claus every Christmas to hand out gifts, learned about it, she brought presents to her and her brother.
“I didn’t even know she did that,” he said. “It really caught me off guard.”
The day Cordova-Pena learned she had breast cancer, she had taken Adreyan to the doctor’s office, unprepared for the devastating news. When she walked into the waiting room where he sat, she was crying.
“She explained nothing is going to happen to me. I’ll be in pain and have surgeries, but nothing is going to happen,” Adreyan said. “I thought OK, as long as she’s still with me.”
Over the next two years, Cordova-Pena immersed herself in work, particularly programs dealing with breast cancer. She began driving the department’s pink car and participated in walk-a-thons. On the day she finished chemo, she did a walk-a-thon in her wheelchair. At a dedication of a pink fire truck in Miami Beach, she and Adreyan both wrote messages on the truck. “You never know how strong you are until that’s your only choice,” Cordova-Pena wrote. Next to it, Adreyan wrote, “Together we are strong. But alone we are nothing.”
Adreyan, who attended Maya Angelou Elementary School, had picked Ponce middle school after attending a magnet school fair and being impressed with the presentation .