The day began bright and hopeful, recalled Florentino Ramirez.
Ramirez, 25, an unemployed union carpenter from the Central Valley town
of Patterson, was holding a carwash Saturday at the parking lot of a business
south of downtown San Jose to raise money to bury his daughter, Florentina,
who died June 16 after being born prematurely at 23 weeks.
His brothers and sisters, cousins and aunts were pitching in. By lunchtime,
the carwash was under way. Lila McGraw, his younger sister, was standing
just off the sidewalk, between two parked cars, holding a sign to passing
motorists: "CAR WASH! Help family with infant death."
McGraw was laughing, entreating cars in English, then Spanish. "¡Lava
"I was washing a car and everybody was joking around, being happy,"
Florentino Ramirez said. "Then, I heard tire screeching and a big
"I looked up and I didn't see my sister where she was standing
before," he said. "I looked hard and I only saw the sign she
was holding on the ground."
In one loud, careening instant, McGraw lay dead on the asphalt. A stunned
Ramirez tried to revive her. An aunt also tried.
San Jose police said a pickup truck traveling northbound on South First
Street had swerved to the southbound lane to avoid
rear-ending another vehicle that had stopped too quickly. The pickup struck McGraw.
The initial investigation did not indicate use of alcohol by the driver,
"Our entire family is in shock and we're all devastated,"
said Jo Anna Castillo, a cousin of McGraw's. "It's really,
really hard to understand."
McGraw, a single mother of four boys ages 19 months, 4, 7 and 8, was saddened
by the death of her brother's child, Castillo said. As a working mom
- she worked at a new McDonald's on Monterey Road and Curtner Avenue
- she also understood her brother's tough financial situation. She
wanted to help raise money to pay for Florentina's burial.
McGraw, who grew up in San Jose, was looking forward to getting married
next year. She was newly engaged, Castillo said, and was excited about
having a new spouse to help raise her family. Friday afternoon, McGraw
had gone into Filomena's Audio Waves, a car stereo business on South
First Street, to talk with the owner, Filomena Amezquita. Her pitch was
simple: She wanted to hold a carwash at the business parking lot because
she was raising money to help her brother pay for a child's funeral.
She offered to pay for the use of the parking lot and the water.
"I told her no problem. She didn't need to pay me,"Amezquita
said. "I will help her."
Amezquita was working the day of the accident. She too, heard the
crash and the screaming.
"I can't imagine losing two members of your family at once like
this," she said. "It is heartbreaking for me, and I want to
help them in anyway that I can."
Amezquita has put up a collection can at her business.
Meanwhile, McGraw's family is trying to deal with the numbing reality
of two tragic deaths in less than a week.
"I'm in and out of my emotions right now," Ramirez said.
"I'm trying to stay as strong as I can."
Source: Mercury News: 06/22/09
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