Community mourns over the loss of young life

Lily Miroshnychenko


People from all over the Pacoima community group together holding signs and candles to mourn the loss of student and friend Elias Rodriguez.

The street in front of Cesar E. Chavez Learning Academies was blocked off all the way to the Pacoima Wash bridge on Friday, March 3 as thousands of people came to pay their respects to 14-year-old drown victim Elias Rodriguez.

“Tonight, we showed the world how a community can come together,” said Fr. Miguel Mascorro as he addressed the large crowd.

The vigil began in front of the academy at 7:00 pm and as Mascorro finished his prayer to the family, the flame of candles began to illuminate the crowd and they walked toward the small bridge Rodriguez used to walk past.

Many of the vigil attendees were Rodriguez’s peers and friends, and also graduates, like Ashlyn Kirkland.

“We all went to school with him. He set an example for others. He was always smiling, always happy, he didn’t talk badly about anyone,” she said.

Among the crowd, a poster could be seen being held up with the words ‘Lakeview Class of 2016 Loves and Misses you Eli’ written for many to see.

Social, nice, funny and outgoing were just a few of the many sincere words the crowds used to describe the him. Freshman Fidel Ramirez, who was a friend of Rodriguez, describes how the student body reacted to his death.

“I saw on his social media that everyone was just saying, ‘Come home, Eli, just please come home safe,” he said.

After his death, counselors were sent to the school to help students cope with his loss. However, many students preferred to talk to their peers

“We would be there. All of us– his friends– we would comfort them,” Ramirez said.

There is still a lingering question to all of this. What will happen next? As parents quietly lament on how dangerous and easy it is to trespass the fence to get close to the running stream, students will still walk home from school.

Around the Los Angeles River stand more than 80 schools and thousands of students. The death of Elias Rodriguez was not the first death, as the bodies of two best friends were found in the LA River last year, and many more cases since 2000. This troubling evidence should serve as a loud suggestion to improve safety around canal areas.

While the city decides on what they will do, hope rests on the shoulders of people to look out for each other and join together as a community to support their neighbors, whether they may be friends or strangers. If this tragedy taught us anything, it is just how important community may be.

“His memory will live on,” said Fr. Mascorro in his last words. “We shall never forget the power of a little boy in bringing our community together.”