CINDY PALACIOS VALLADARES
She dreamed of
being a princess
Seeing the car speeding through the crowd at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market, Veronica Reza did what any mother would do. With one arm, she clasped the stroller holding her 8-month-old son, Christopher. With the other, she tugged frantically on the arm of her 3-year-old daughter, Cindy.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday July 19, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
Santa Monica victims -- A profile in Friday's section A of Lynne Weaver, a victim in the Santa Monica Farmers' Market crash, misspelled Allie Roverud's first name as Ellie.
But before Reza could reel in her daughter, the car's bumper caught the little girl and swept her away.
"I thought it was a bomb," Reza said Thursday. "I saw boxes flying. People were screaming. I tried to pull her toward me. A homeless woman got in the way. It happened in an instant -- like that!"
As she spoke, she held out an arm and tugged at empty air.
"If I would have pulled her by just a little more," she said, "I would have saved her."
Reza hadn't gone to the market for food. She had traveled 45 minutes by bus so her children could see their dad, Rafael Godoy Palacios, who works two jobs nearby, at a Chinese restaurant and a movie theater.
Their trip Wednesday was to have been a family adventure, far from their cramped apartment in Koreatown.
Sometime before 2 p.m., Veronica, 26, heard the screams of shoppers and instinctively clung to her infant. She tried to pull Cindy closer.
"She wanted to save her little girl," said Jose Reza, Veronica's brother. "She wanted to move her, but the car went too fast."
Cindy Palacios Valladares, one of Wednesday's youngest victims, was a bubbly child with a round face, a pouty nose and short, dark, curly hair. She loved dolls and teddy bears and playing tag. She liked watching TV shows about animals. With a neighbor's daughter, she would pretend to be a princess, imagining a life beyond the one-room apartment she shared with her mother, father and baby brother.
Veronica's Reza's cousin, Miguel Reza, used to take Cindy to the park. She'd giggle on the swings and trot to the slides, the 16-year-old recalled.
"For her age, she had a remarkable vocabulary," said Carlos Hernandez, a neighbor who had a pet iguana that Cindy liked to visit. "She was very well-spoken, as though she was a little adult. But she was playful like a child."
Sometimes Cindy would visit the apartment of neighbor Jose Recinos, who has a 3-year-old daughter and two parakeets that delighted Cindy.
Wednesday night, Recinos took a case of cold sodas to Cindy's parents, hoping to bring a small measure of relief to the family as they grieved in the stifling heat.
He said Cindy's father, Rafael, 31, told him he wasn't bitter. "He did not blame the old man, because he knew he did not mean to do it," Recinos said.
Last Thursday, Cindy had celebrated her third birthday at the home of her grandfather, Lucio Reza, in Elysian Park.
"I did everything for this girl. I loved her. She was my joy," the grandfather said.
He said he roasted a pig for the party and hung a star-shaped pinata. Most of the relatives had given clothes to Cindy, mindful of her family's modest income.
"Where do we get the money for the burial?" asked Lucio Reza, tears flooding his eyes.
"She was my joy. She was my treasure," he said, weeping. "For me, happiness has ended."
'She did everything
for her children'
Gloria Gonzalez, 32, could have walked to the grocery story four blocks from her Venice home. But the soft-spoken Mexican immigrant wanted organic vegetables for her 10-year-old son, David, and 3-year-old daughter, Joseline. So on Wednesdays, she took a 17-minute ride on the No. 3 bus and stepped off at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market.
"She did everything for her children," sister-in-law Maria Martinez said in Spanish in the family's tidy living room. "She adored them."
On Thursday, her husband, Gil Martinez, 30, clutched a photo of himself and his wife, frozen in smiles at a distant party. Joseline sat on his lap, David at his side.
Gil and Gloria met as teenagers in San Bartolo Coyotepec, a town known for its pottery artisans in the Mexican state of Oaxaca.
Like so many other immigrants, they came north 15 years ago in search of a better life. They settled in one of Venice's rougher neighborhoods, but five years ago they moved to the quiet, tree-lined street where eight family members shared a three-bedroom home.
Both worked in restaurants -- Gil cooking at Cafe Laurent in Culver City, Gloria washing and cleaning at El Cholo in Santa Monica.
Family members, who had been watching the news on TV Wednesday afternoon, said they suspected something might be wrong when they received a call from Joseline's preschool: Gloria had not come by to pick up her daughter.
Martinez called his boss, Rayn Patzkozky. "He was so scared," Patzkozky recalled. "They'd been married for 15 years and this was the first time she'd done such a thing, failed to pick up her daughter."
The family set off on a frantic seven hours of searching. They checked four hospitals, to no avail.
At 11 p.m., they received a call from the coroner's office.