Some mothers will receive flowers this week in celebration of Mother’s Day. Others, like Eficia Garcia, will mark the holiday by taking flowers to the place in Northeast Los Angeles where their child’s life was tragically cut short by violence.
Statistics show that crime is down in the area that includes Highland Park, Eagle Rock, Lincoln Heights, Cypress Park, Mt. Washington and Glassell Park.
But for Eficia, the violence is ever-present.
She vividly recalls March 13, 2009, the day her 16-year old son Alejandro Garcia was shot to death in front of the Highland Park Recreation Center. His 15-year old friend Carlos Hernandez was also shot.
Police said they think the shooting was gang-related, but Eficia doesn’t believe her son was involved in a gang. He was an ROTC student at Franklin High School who never gave her trouble, she told EGP in Spanish earlier this week. She said Alejandro was wrongly taken from her.
“Nobody can understand how I feel.” she said, struggling to hold back her tears.
The day Alejandro was killed started out just like any other day. Eficia recalls being at her home on Avenue 64 waiting for her son to return from school. It was around 3:30 p.m. and crowds of students from Franklin passed her house on their way home.
Like she had so many times before, she was preparing something for Alejandro to eat when he got home. He was planning to watch the Lakers game with friends, she recalled.
That’s when the sound of gunshots filled the air. Silence followed. Her mother’s intuition told her something was wrong.
At first she thought her 13-year old daughter who attended nearby Burbank Middle School might have been hurt.
“Go see what happened!” she yelled at her older son in Spanish, fearing the worst.
He told her to stay inside, but how could she? She grabbed her 3-year old son and walked to the scene of the crime.
For a moment, her fear was swept away by relief.
“I thought ‘thank God it wasn’t my daughter,’” she remembers thinking after seeing her daughter was safe.
But that feeling was quickly lost when she realized the victim being put in an ambulance was her son. She could only see his legs, but she recognized his pants and shoes.
“I think that’s Jandro (her son’s nickname), that’s my son!” she yelled out.
Not knowing what had happened, she says she completely lost it and began screaming and crying.
Four years have passed but the memory still tears at her as she struggles to stay composed.
This Saturday, Eficia will join other mothers whose children were the victims of violence for the 6th Annual Peace in the Northeast Walk. This year’s walk will include stops at the sites where a life was ended by violence. The spot in front of the Highland Park Recreation Center where Alejandro was shot to death is on the route.
A cross will be placed at each of the sites.
“We need to make sure we don’t let this happen” again, Eficia told EGP. That’s why, despite the personal pain it will cause her, Eficia will be among those walking.
While time may lessen the pain, violence like that which took her son have a lasting effect, she says.
“My family fell a part,” she said, explaining that her life has not been the same since her son was killed.
She and her husband divorced soon after the killing. Her children turned against each other and now barely speak. Her oldest son has resorted to heavy drinking and blames himself for not going that day to see what had happened as his mother told him to do.
Alejandro’s murder also caused a strain on the family finances. Eficia says that although she was able to pay for her son’s funeral and burial at a Glendale cemetery, she eventually lost her family’s home.
Then there were the death threats and the gunshots fired at her home on New Years Day, causing her to fear for her life and those of her family.
People should understand that when you kill somebody it affects their families dramatically, Eficia said.
She knows that the two jailed murder suspects are also missed by their families, but says the pain they feel cannot compare to what she has suffered.
“I understand they are locked up, but at least they can see them … When will I see my son?” she said, the tears starting to flow.
With Mother’s Day approaching and her life broken into pieces, Eficia still wishes she could somehow get back the son she lost.
Mother’s Day is “no longer the same,” she said, racked with emotion.
The loss of Alejandro, who would care for her when she came home late at night after her job cleaning offices, has left a hole in her life, Eficia told EGP.
“Why do I keep living when you’re no longer here with me,” she tells her son when she visits his grave.
Eficia hopes her story will inspire other mothers in the Northeast area to support this Saturday’s walk for peace and to share the pain that burdens her and women like her who have lost a child through senseless violence.
She visited the site where her son was killed earlier this week in preparation for this weekend’s walk.
Looking out into the street, her eyes filled with tears, the pain floods back as though it was just yesterday that Alejandro was murdered.
“My son was lost, but I must recover from this.”
Attend the 6th Annual Peace in the Northeast Walk
The walk will begin at 10 a.m. at the Highland Park Recreation Center, located at 6150 Piedmont, Los Ángeles, CA 90042.
The event will offer free food and drinks, music and activities for children. There will be free bike helmets for youth who complete a bike safety training, while supplies last. The event will end at 4 p.m.
For more information, email NEPeaceDay@gmail.com