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Family, Friends Gather To Remember Sleepy Hollow High Grad

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. -- Gisela Marin’s voice broke halfway through a poem she was reading aloud for her daughter. After she was done, Marin and 23 others peeled open small, white boxes to release the butterflies held inside.

Marin watched as her butterfly flittered away, her eyes alight with hope while she watched it. Then she returned to the scene before her and shed a few tears. Her husband stood beside her and hugged her.

Marin’s daughter, Jessica, would have been 24 last Friday. The poem Marin read spoke about remembrance and how that person would always be with their loved ones in spirit.

“That’s what Jessica would be saying to you today if she was here,” Marin said.

A group of about 70 people gathered at Kingsland Point Park on Sunday for the fifth annual Jessica N. Santos Memorial Walk and Family Fun Day. The event raises money for the Jessica N. Santos Foundation, named after Marin’s daughter.

Santos was struck by a bullet from a drive-by shooting in Yonkers in 2006. The Tarrytown native and Sleepy Hollow High School graduate was just about to enter her sophomore year at the University of New Haven, where she was studying criminal investigations.

The foundation, set up in her memory, gives out scholarships to Sleepy Hollow High School students as well as University of New Haven students who study criminal investigations.

Sunday’s event featured music, food and games in addition to the memorial walk, which meandered from the gazebo in Kingsland Point Park around the lighthouse and to Beekman Ave. before it turned around. People from Santos’ life gathered for the event to honor her memory.

“I still can’t believe it’s going to be five years that we’ve been doing this and Jessica’s been gone,” Marin told the crowd. “But she’s always with us in spirit, so today I want to thank all of you who came out on this hot day once again to remember Jessica and celebrate her life.”

Dorothy Aguiar was one person who came to remember Jessica. Her family is very close to Marin’s family. Their kids grew up together.

Aguiar described Jessica as a hardworking and vibrant young woman who loved to help others.

“We hope that Jessica will be remembered as a beautiful young woman,” she said. “She was aspiring to work and have a life like everyone else until she was tragically taken away from us.”

Aguiar added that society needed to do more for its children.

“There’s just too many of them dying for no reason,” she said. "We need to do more.”

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