Hundreds Mourn Marina Fire Victims At Memorial Service
November 11, 2011
Marina residents mourned en masse Thursday night as they gathered at Epiphany Lutheran & Episcopal Church to remember the victims of Saturday's fire at Mt. Carmel Residential Care Facility.
Joyful portraits of the five young adults who perished in the blaze beamed down from an altar on the standing-room-only crowd, who wept, laughed and prayed as pastors and community leaders shared their reflections on the tragedy.
"I'm struggling like many people are," said Marina Mayor Bruce Delgado, his voice wavering as he addressed more than 200 mourners. "So many of us in Marina are shocked and saddened and wondering what we might be able to do in the future to avoid tragedies like this."
Pacific Grove Mayor Carmelita Garcia read aloud a letter from Jess Calderon, the father of one of the victims, 24-year-old Monica Calderon, who died alongside John Hernandez, 21, Mary Morales, 22, Janette Navarro, 22, and Rubi Cella Ramirez, 26. "Since childhood, Monica was a social butterfly," Jess Calderon wrote. He shared stories of her love of shopping—"she would call me and say, 'Dad, I've got money, let's go cruising!'"—and the outdoors. Her family learned not to tell her the exact date she'd be taking a trip to visit her father in Pennsylvania: "She had a tendency to pack her suitcase weeks early to visit me," Calderon wrote.
Connie Cruz, Monica Calderon's mother, wept in the front row as Garcia read the letter.
Pastor John Shipman, an Army chaplain, spoke to the grief and trauma of the first responders, many of whom were in attendance, who put their lives on the line to try and save the burning building and those inside. "You, too, grieve," Shipman said. "The pain will remain for a long time. We thank you for your constant response."
Father Carl Faria, a chaplain with the Marina Fire Department, called on the community to unite not just in grief, but in strength to move forward from the worst fire in the small city's history. "We owe it to [the victims] not to waste the gift of their lives," Faria said. "They loved us with their purity of heart."
The cause of the fire is still unknown, according to Marina police conducting an ongoing investigation. The one surviving Mt. Carmel resident, a 22-year-old male, is expected to survive.