One year old Joel looked at a photo of his big brother Gabriel Monday with his mother Ariseli Coria. He puts the photo to his face. "They were so close, everytime he sees a picture he does the same thing," says Coria. Gabriel, 2, was killed by in a backing car accident in late September. Police say the child may have chased a balloon under the car.
Coria and her husband Jose Garcia take it one day at a time as they try to heal from the loss of their son. They are thankful for the support they have felt from the community.
They said they've received support from people they had never even met before the tragedy happened.
One way the family is coping is by building a memorial to the lost child, in the form of a playhouse building erected in their front yard.
In Mexico, it is tradition to create a shrine to a lost loved one as close as possible to the location where they passed away. Both Ariseli and Jose are originally from Mexico.
Coria says the tragedy happened on a Sunday and the following Thursday night her husband woke up after he saw a bright light. He got up but the light was gone so he walked to a couch in the living room where he often slept. He fell back to sleep but saw the light again. Coria said he thought maybe Gabriel wanted something. "(He said) I will do something," she says.
"I think it's going to be a way for him to let him go,"says Coria of the memorial's impact on the father.
The couple built a memorial structure in the yard which will be filled with photos and some of Gabe's favorite toys. It is a place that family and friends will be able to go to remember the toddler.
The project ran into a snag with the city, which is on the way to being cleared up.
When the couple learned that their memorial might require permission, they went to the City.
There was a misunderstanding at City Hall, where officials thought the couple was talking about putting up a very small playhouse, said City Administrator Patti Moore. After the 8 foot by 10 foot structure was built in the couple's front yard, the City received a call of complaint that it was violating City Code. The family went to the zoning Board of Adjustments to seek a variance allowing the structure. It was initially denied and the board told the couple to move the building to the backyard.
Moore said that officials have come to realize how important it is to the couple to locate the memoral near the accident site.
On Wednesday the board approved by a 3-2 vote to allow the memorial if attached to the garage, on the side of the home. The family is pleased with the decision.
Through the process, they remember the beloved child. "He was always happy, always smiling," says Coria. "He was always hugging and kissing us. Always playing with us. Always taking care of his little brother." She looks at Joel who has learned how to walk on short legs that are still a little wobbly.
Jose says he is thankful for every day they were able to spend with Gabriel. He says he also wants others not to be afraid to be an organ donor. The couple is having Gabriel's eyes and heart valves donated in hopes of helping another child.