Elsa was a sweet child. Moving to this country from El Salvador, she entered my daughter Jarin’s pre-kindergarten class at Parkway Elementary without knowing any English. Yet she arrived daily, walking to school with her dad and younger sister, Vanessa, ready to learn something new.
Imagine not knowing the language or customs of a community yet being dropped off daily to hang out with strangers speaking a language you don’t understand. Yet she was always smiling, happy and willing to participate.
If I remember correctly, kindergarten was rough. I had to learn how to write letters, remember not to suck my thumb, avoid the paddle (yes, I’m that old) and figure out how to get along with a roomful of strangers. Then of course there was my unfortunate peeing of the pants incident during song time. I remember specifically pissing myself because Billy Taylor, the last kid that interrupted song time, had been turned over Mrs. Work’s knee in front of the entire class. Pee running down my leg into my Mary Janes seemed like a bargain.
Clearly I was confused, but that’s my point. I spoke the language – well – and still didn’t comprehend the rules of the classroom or acceptaable behavior. I chose to pee my pants rather than interrupt my teacher or go to the bathroom without permission. Imagine being in that type of confusing situation day in and day out without understanding anything that’s being said to you.
If you’ve ever volunteered at your kid’s school you know there are kids that rub you the wrong way. Then there are the kids you know well because they play with your child. There’s a third group of kids that you don’t know at all but for some reason feel drawn to such that you pull for them, giving them extra attention and really wanting them to do well.
Elsa was that kind of kid to me. A child that could have completely gotten away with having a tantrum or an outburst (it was pre-k for God’s sakes, who among them didn’t have a bad day?) but chose instead to face her language barrier and unfamiliar circumstances with bravery and grace. She never acted up. She was quite simply a wonderful child.
By the middle of 1st grade she moved to a different school. Because her parents spoke limited English and I don’t speak Spanish there was really no way to keep in touch, but I thought of her often and wondered how she was doing. My assumption was that she was probably thriving. A kid that smart and sweet goes far in life. I also assumed that when the girls were in middle school they’d meet up again, this time both able to speak English and perhaps would renew their friendship.
They found Elsa’s body, neatly tucked into her bed and under the covers along with the bodies of her 2 sisters, Vanessa and Carena and younger brother, Angel. Their father was hanged from the second story stairwell and the mother is missing. Bits and pieces of information get revealed daily, but there are certainly more questions than answers.
Here’s what I know for sure. A kid with that kind of inner light grows up to be something special and we are all worse off because she didn’t get the opportunity.
They have not revealed how the children were murdered. Although they have ruled out shooting and stabbing it isn’t clear whether they were poisoned or suffocated. I hope she was poisoned by something that took her in her sleep. I hope her last thoughts were not wondering why someone that loved her was robbing her of her last breath.
Elsa is on the left with her sister Vanessa on the right. They have not released pictures of the other 2 children. God bless you, sweet babies. God bless.