A young girl knelt and prayed while others stood with heads bowed. They left behind flowers, signs and candles. Some left their tears. A steady stream of visitors strolled past the entrance to Phoenix’s Steele Indian School Park Sunday afternoon to view an homemade memorial honoring the two pilots and two TV cameramen who died Friday in a helicopter collision while covering a high-speed car chase.
http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/images/photos/6po3ffnv.jpg" rel= "lytebox" class="content-link">GRAPHIC: View the helicopters' specifications
“It’s hard to believe,” said Anna Morales, 29, who cried and held her daughter’s hand while looking at the memorial.
Signs remembering ABC 15 pilot Craig Smith and cameraman Rick Krolak and Channel 3 pilot Scott Bowerbank and cameraman Jim Cox faced quiet onlookers.
“Thank you for your courage,” one read.
“We will miss you,” said another.
Barbara Esquivel-Garcia, who used to work with Cox at Channel 3, brought three young children and an infant to the memorial to remind them that life could end at any moment and to treasure it.
She knelt down and cried, while her children rubbed her back.
“He had a big presence,” Esquivel-Garcia said of Cox. “We’re going to miss him a lot.”
Even those who had never met the men wandered past the park.
Ashraf Bashige, a 10-year-old boy, visited the area with his mother. “She was crying all day yesterday,” Bashige said of his mom, who is from Africa and doesn’t speak English. “We just came from church and we were praying for them to rest in peace.”
A Mesa family of seven also took some time to remember the pilots and cameramen.
“We’ve watched the guys on (Channel) 3 ever since we were kids,” said a solemn Erin Williams, 28, of Mesa. “We just drove by to stop and pay our respects.” Kenneth Trahan, a Phoenix realtor, spent the afternoon asking visitors to sign a petition for a permanent memorial to honor the men.
Anita Moreno, of Phoenix, felt a special bond to the families of the men since she also lost a loved one in a sudden crash. Her husband died six years ago when his car was struck by a drunken driver, she said.
“We are touched by this. We feel for the families very deeply and want to be close,” Moreno said. “And we pray, too, for God to give them strength.”
— Tribune writer Lauren Gilger contributed to this report