The Northeast San Fernando Community, in a massive expression of love, demonstrated how much they cared about finding a missing 14-year-old teen. The community swiftly moved together in their concern to find Elias “Eli” Rodriguez who disappeared after leaving school on Feb.17, and sadly, the call to action dashed hope into deep sorrow when his body was found miles away in the L.A. River in Los Feliz.
Together, the community grieved.
Hundreds were expected to attend the candlelight vigil held for “Eli.” But instead thousands came, including people who lived long distances away. Liliya Miroshnychenko, a high school student in Tarzana, came to the vigil with her mother Yulya Jenson, originally from Russia, “We were all hoping for a miracle,” she wept.
Eli’s friends walked together during the vigil and talked of their fun times with the teen, described as “nice and always smiling,” and helping someone else when they felt down. His friends from his middle school spoke of the special trip his tight knit class took to Washington, D.C. together and remembered the fun they had giggling and being silly, jumping on the beds like little kids. Over and over, they would describe “Eli” as their “good friend” or “best friend.” At the vigil, one friend said he wanted to keep laughing, so that he wouldn’t start crying.
At the funeral his friends could not contain themselves as easily, and they held each other as their tears flowed. They asked, “Why did this have to happen?” A question that can’t easily be answered.
Fr. Miguel Mascarro, a family member as well as the Priest who gave the funeral Mass, urged the community to continue to support each other and spoke of the unity and the love for “Eli” that brought so many people together.
The days ahead won’t be easy for “Eli’s” family. It’s not a movie that’s over once the film credits run. The world has shifted for them and life won’t ever be the same.
What should happen next is a question that this same community should be asking, and the call to action that brought people together can bring them together again to discuss the safety of the Pacoima Wash. It’s a problem, it’s always been a problem. A loosely gated padlock is hardly adequate security for keeping school kids out .
A low railing at the so-called “bridge” on Glendoaks Boulevard during a horiffic thunderstorm — like the day that “Eli” disappeared, a day that rain fell in buckets and the wind blew so hard that trees bent and snapped — that short railing hardly prevents someone from possibly falling into the wash.
We may never know what happened to “Eli” on this day. But, we all do know that this call to action needs to be directed to taking a good look at the Pacoima Wash and improve its security. The “Wash” has been used as a short cut that students take as a route home. And various points along the wash have become homeless encampments, and places that teens have even used as a lovers lane.
The television crews have left. Their aerial shots were impressive, but they have moved on to their next story. So now, a big question remains. What will this community do next? Will this community stick together and continue its call to action? Will this community work to demand and be assured that the Wash becomes properly secured?
It is surely up to you.