Nearly a week after 13-year-old Lourdes Guzman-DeJesus was shot and killed on her way to school, six classmates escorted their friend in her last journey.
Hand-in-hand, the schoolgirls walked behind the hearse carrying the body of their friend, as it moved through the cemetery to the gravesite.
In all, more than 100 family members, friends and classmates attended the funeral Monday afternoon in southwest Miami-Dade.
Her death has left her mother, Ady Guzman DeJesus, bereft and her school community at Palm Glades Preparatory Academy in shock.
Lourdes, known as “Jina,” was killed last Tuesday when another student packed a .40-caliber pistol in his backpack and took it out on the private school bus carrying kids to three charter schools. The gun went off, striking Lourdes in the neck. Jordyn Alexander Howe, a student at Somerset Academy Silver Palms, has been charged with manslaughter and carrying a concealed weapon.
At the intimate funeral service, Lourdes’ mother wept over her daughter’s body one last time and wailed “ Dios mío” - “My God” - as the silver casket, covered with pink roses and white flowers, was closed for the last time.
Before pallbearers took the casket, a monkey-shaped balloon was removed from the corner, one of the many signs the funeral was for a child who died too soon.
“I’m just trying to remember how she was before, how she was always smiling and happy,” said Jackie Moreno, 13, who knew Lourdes since fourth grade and walked with others in the escort. “I don’t want to remember her in the hospital.”
Glenda Maldonado, whose daughter Noelia Luna was a classmate of Lourdes’, said the teen had a fun personality. “She was very funny, she was happy -- a good girl. No street smarts, just low key,” Maldonado said. She said several classmates, mostly dressed in their school color of royal blue, had attended elementary school with Lourdes at Summerville Advantage Academy. “They are like family because they’ve been growing up together,” she said.
Another friend, April Zaig-Stephens, 14, said Lourdes liked to help teachers, helping set up last year for the school’s talent show, and also visited with elderly people with her mom, who worked in a nursing home. She said she and friends are coping with the loss. “We’re helping one another. It’s hard to see a classmate of ours go in such a sad way,” April said.
During the Christian ceremony, mourners listened to Psalm 22 and recited the “Our Father” and “Hail Mary” prayers in Spanish. To conclude, family and friends released several white doves and purple balloons, one of Lourdes’ favorite colors.
The funeral followed other memorials for the slain teen. Last week, students at Palm Glades tied colored balloons to a fence and cheerleaders shouted “Go, Lourdes, Go!” to celebrate her life. On Saturday evening, family and friends held a vigil at the accident site, where the gun went off just outside the alleged shooter’s gated neighborhood in Homestead.
Jordyn is being held at a juvenile detention center until Dec. 11, when prosecutors will decide whether to charge him as an adult.
The 15-year-old boy had brought the gun to school at Somerset Academy Silver Palms at least once before, sources told The Miami Herald.
When asked about security measures against weapons on campus, Principal Kerri Ann O’Sullivan said in a statement there were “numerous safety measures” in place. She said the charter school follows the same code of conduct as traditional public schools in Miami-Dade County.
“The safety and security of our students and campus are of paramount concern,” O’Sullivan said. “In the event of an illegal act, police are contacted immediately.”