About 150 friends and classmates paid tribute to Carlos Lopez Jr. Tuesday at St. Catherine's Military School in Anaheim, two days after the 13-year-old Mexican student perished in the Aeromexico crash in Cerritos. In a solemn, 45-minute memorial Mass, the student was remembered for his contagious enthusiasm.
On Tuesday, Carlos, who died along with his parents, Carlos Sr. and Guadalupe Lopez, would have ended his summer vacation and again donned the green military uniform of St. Catherine's.
"He was a special and delightful boy. He was so full of life and was so well liked by everyone," said Sister Mary Menegatti, the school's principal.
She said a pall fell over the campus Tuesday when registration began for the new school year. Carlos would have been the 34th Mexican student to register.
"Registration went well, considering, but today was a sad day," Sister Mary added.
Msgr. John Keenan, fighting back tears as he addressed the mostly Mexican congregation, said Carlos' death had touched all those who knew him at St. Catherine's.
This was to be Carlos' second year at the military school of 205 students. Seven families from Navajoa, his hometown in the Mexican state of Sonora, were present for Tuesday night's Mass. They had come to bring their own children, Carlos' classmates, to Anaheim for another year of school.
They sat quietly, stunned by the sudden death of Carlos and his parents, whom they had seen in Navajoa only two days before the tragic midair collision that may have claimed as many as 90 lives.
Another 20 Mexican families, also in Anaheim to register their children, were present for the Mass.
Keenan, who conducted the Mass in Spanish, remembered Carlos as an altar boy and as a spirited youngster who played and marched enthusiastically on the school's open field.
"We talk of family," Keenan said. "This is our family, and each one of us has been hurt because of this loss. We're going to miss him because we have suffered this loss.
"But he is still with us. Let us make room for the memories of him that we will recount many times."
When the Mass ended, the families marched out quietly. Some sobbed. Others just looked ahead. Moments later, in the back parking lot of the chapel, they kissed their sons goodby before beginning today's early morning trips back to their Mexican cities.
But Carlos' best friend, Alfredo Santini, 14, talked emotionally of him after the Mass. Alfredo was one of four classmates who served as altar boys during the special Mass. He last saw his friend last Friday in Navajoa.
"He'll always be in my heart," Alfredo said, biting his lip. "I'll remember his laughter. He was always the same to everyone."