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The Tale of Erika Castillo, A Tragedy

Posted 06-26-2010 at 04:19 PM by BigwigRabbit

This happened more than 15 years ago. It still affects me today. The last thing I remember about Erika was her playing handball with the other 3rd graders. It was my first full year of teaching. She was a wonderful student: quiet, smart, well behaved. I firmly remember her hitting the ball, both hands entwined above her head with the effort. Nice memory.<!--break-->

The next morning, as I drove to work, I went through a strange fog-like cloud that smelled of smoke. I got a call about 30 minutes before class would begin. Come to the office, is what they said. The lady that had been elected to do the informing took me into a back room and told me there had been a fire. Erika was dead. Her cousin (who was also in my class) was not accounted for. I spent about an hour and a half wondering if I'd lost two. Finally they called me and told me she'd lived (the cousin). She was to have spent the night but had not for some reason. That was a bit of relief within the storm, but not enough to make a tremendous difference. That week was awful.

Another girl in my class was a best friend and neighbor of Erika. She had watched as they wheeled Erika's body out to the coroner's van. She would need a great deal of comforting in the next months.

The house burned down because some kid was playing with matches. The family had one of those big satellite dishes (pre-direct tv) but no smoke alarms. The twins (aged 2 or 3) lived, but just barely.

We drew a lot of pictures and wrote a lot of goodbye letters. They sent some schmuck from downtown to "counsel" us. We came through it all together. I gave Erika's neighbor hugs when she needed them. I didn't care what anyone thought. She needed hugs. Erika's cousin needed them too, but she closed up. I wonder what ever happened to her.
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  1. Old Comment
    luv2chat's Avatar
    What a sad story. Those moments in our life leave an indelible mark on us.

    During my final teaching practicum I had a moment like that. Even now 18 years later I can vividly recall details from the day Kristy died on her way home from school. She was only 5 years old, we shared the same birthday, she was wearing a hot pink snowsuit. She was ran over twice by a car backing out of a driveway and left to die by the side of the road. It wasn't until a bus stopped and let some people off at a nearby bus stop that she was found. This was in a busy city, how did she go unnoticed? How do you run over a child and not notice? Would it have made a difference if she had been found sooner? Who lets a 5 year old walk home from school alone? How do you live with the guild knowing you killed a child and never turn yourself in? Even now 18 years later I am still haunted by those questions and the painting of her that hung in the hallway for the remainder of that year. We had done those full body paintings where you trace the kids and they paint themselves. She had painted herself in her favorite outfit, it was black with white hearts all over it.

    God bless Erica and Kristy. They have never been forgotten.
    Posted 06-26-2010 at 06:04 PM by luv2chat luv2chat is offline
  2. Old Comment
    When I was in first grade (back in 1986) there was a fire in a house near my school. The child (also in first grade) died - possibly even other members of their family, I don't remember.

    I remember them talking to us about this child who had died in the fire. She was in the class next door to me, so I never knew her. But this is something that I will always remember. Even now, when I drive by the house (which is just an empty lot now), I still remember that day.
    Posted 06-26-2010 at 06:43 PM by Winn-Dixie Winn-Dixie is offline

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