Just after noon, the three bells at Saint Mark Catholic Church tolled for Alexa Duran.
The 18-year-old was one of the six victims of the Florida International University pedestrian bridge collapse last week. On Thursday, a week since the catastrophic accident, her friends and family buried their loved one after a funeral at Saint Mark, the church attached to her high school, Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy, in Southwest Ranches in Broward.
Her friend, Robert Julia, said Duran was a cheerleader and dancer during high school. He remembered her as “always funny, always laughing” and “the life of the party.” It was her first year at FIU, where she was studying political science and in the newest pledge class for the Alpha Xi Delta sorority.
During the nearly two-hour ceremony, Julia was “astonished” when he watched a video clip of Duran singing at a karaoke night from a cruise she and her best friends took to celebrate their high school graduation. Few people knew that she had a lovely singing voice, a talent she hid from all but her closest friends.
Those friends honored Duran by singing “Stay” by Rihanna during a vigil held on the FIU campus on Wednesday.
The $14.2-million pedestrian bridge, a joint project between FIU and the city of Sweetwater to ferry students across heavily traveled Southwest Eighth Street, collapsed last Thursday while it was under construction at Eighth Street and 109th Avenue.
Julia, 19, had seen Duran just two weeks before she died. He was walking through the FIU campus, where he also attends, with his headphones when he heard Duran screaming his name. He popped one earbud out and waved as she gave him her usual megawatt smile.
“I had no idea it would be the last time I’d see her, except in her casket today,” he said.