The day before Monserrat Hernandez Garcia was slated to graduate from Hudson’s Bay High School, her family was not planning a graduation party, but a funeral.
The 18-year-old senior was killed Sunday after being struck by a bus in downtown Portland. She was on her way to her part-time job at Bridgeport Brewing Co.’s pub in the Pearl District.
Tuesday afternoon at the family’s home, friends stopped by to bring flowers and prayer candles in memory of the young woman.
“I can’t let her go,” said her sister, Jozelin Hernandez Garcia, 20. “I keep thinking she’s going to walk in the door and say, ‘I’m here! Did you miss me?’ I know she’s in a better place now.”
Her mother, Maria Garcia Hernandez, walked into the living room carrying an armload of medals her daughter had won in science competitions. She knelt on the floor and hung them on the wall next to a string of Rosary beads and photos of her daughter. A collection of prayer candles burned on a small table in front of the photos. Yellow, red and white roses were arranged on the floor beneath the table.
“She always lived to the fullest. She never doubted herself. She’d just go for it,” said Jozelin Hernandez Garcia. “She had so many plans ahead of her.”
Monserrat Hernandez Garcia was born and raised in Veracruz, Mexico. Her family emigrated to the U.S. when she was 11. She attended Ockley Green Middle School in Portland, where she was involved in design and engineering competitions, including the Intel Northwest Science Expo at Portland State University and Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement Oregon. She was a member of the Ockley Green team that went to Colorado for the 2010 MESA national competition and placed.
Nicknamed “Monse” by her family and friends, the young woman had been saving her money for college.
In an essay for school, she wrote: “No one in my family has been to college before and being the first one will be a great experience and my mother will be very proud of me.”
Recently she’d considered joining the Marines.
At Hudson’s Bay, she took art classes including pottery and drawing.
“She was so beautiful,” Jozelin Hernandez Garcia said of her sister. “Not just on the outside. On the inside. She cared for everyone. Cheered everyone up. All the pictures I have of her, she’s always smiling. She could win you over with her smile.”
The family plans to attend the graduation at Hudson’s Bay High School tonight, her sister said.
“She wanted that so bad,” said Jozelin Hernandez Garcia. “She worked for that so hard. We’re going to scream loud for her. She told me, ‘When they say my name, I want everyone to make a lot of noise.'”
Her sister continued: “She was a star who came to this world to light us up, and now she’s in the sky. She will always be a star. A perfect star.”