Family and friends comfort Margarita Meza, mother of Cindi Santana, during… (Luis Sinco, Los Angeles…)
Hundreds came to the South Gate city auditorium Tuesday to mourn Cindi Santana, a 17-year-old South East High School student whose life was hailed as a miracle and death decried as a tragedy.
Santana, a senior, was allegedly stabbed by her ex-boyfriend Sept. 30 during a lunchtime attack on campus. Another student and a dean were injured when they tried to restrain Abraham Lopez, 18. He remains in custody.
The crowd lined the sides of the hall, crying and wiping away tears. A priest offered prayers as he stood before Santana's white casket topped with pink and white roses.
Her face -- fair-skinned, with dark tresses and big, dark eyes -- was projected on a screen at the front of the dim auditorium. Her picture was on the T-shirts many mourners wore and on the cards they held as they filed in.
Family and friends remembered a young woman who was beautiful and intelligent -- and whose life began with major challenges.
Her aunt, Rosy Santana, recalled that Cindi was born with a severe heart condition, requiring major surgeries starting within her first few months.
She was "so fragile, small, sweet," Rosy Santana said.
"When her lips turned purple, we knew she lacked oxygen. When she turned pale, we knew she had played too hard," she said. "When she smiled, she would light up anyplace."
Hours earlier Tuesday, the Los Angeles Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution to expand programs designed to prevent teen dating violence. The programs could cost $2 million a year, and the board has yet to designate the money for it.
Board member Steve Zimmer, who called for the board action, said the programs could potentially avert another tragedy like Cindi Santana's and make schools a safe place for students to receive support, particularly regarding abusive relationships.
In South Gate, friends and family grieved for a girl whose life was cut too short. Her mother, Margarita Meza, was frail and sobbing, leaning on Cindi's older sister, Janet, for support. She thanked those who had helped her family and who showed up Tuesday night. She spoke in Spanish of having a corazon partido -- a broken heart.
Rosy Santana said Cindi was "a young woman with a promising future, only to have her dreams shattered."
She recalled Cindi's quinceanera. At 15, she was radiant. "The miracle baby was turning into a beautiful woman," she said. "Farewell, my beautiful butterfly."