Memorial held for Ema Cardenas, Des Moines teen killed in hit-and-run

Memorial held for Ema Cardenas, Des Moines teen killed in hit-and-run

The mother of a 14-year-old Des Moines East High School student killed in a hit-and-run accident told family, friends and community members at a memorial Sunday evening to pray not only for her family, but for the woman charged in the accident.

“I’m in shock, you guys,” Anna Campos, mother of Ema Cardenas, who was walking home from school when she was struck about 3:45 p.m. Thursday, told the mourners gathered at Martin Luther King Jr. Park. “I haven’t been able to talk, I haven’t been able to leave the house. I did get up to go to church today and honestly, God is with me.

“I’m still not a 100% forgiving,” Campos said, but added, “The person that did it, I feel like she’s suffering and doing worse. I ask that you pray for her when you pray for our family.”

Balloons let loose into the wind at Ema Cardenas' memorial Sunday at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Des Moines.

Police charged Terra Jean Flipping, 38, with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in serious injury or death after finding her car about a mile from where Ema was struck in the 1600 block of East University Avenue. Des Moines police spokesman Sgt. Paul Parizek has said there “is no evidence to indicate that this was anything other than an accident,” but that police are still seeking witnesses.

More than 100 people came out to pay their respects and offer prayers for Ema and her family Sunday. An altar on the edge of the park was adorned with pictures, candles, balloons and flowers. One by one, people stepped up to offer their condolences.

Ema Cardenas, 14, of Des Moines, was killed Thursday in a hit-and-run accident in the 1600 block of E. University Ave.

While the crowd gathered, a few people began to sing “Amazing Grace” as others wept and held one another.

After the singing ended, Pastor Rex Deckard of Calvary Apostolic Church in Des Moines, where Ema was a member of the youth group, told the crowd that “the greatest expression of love you can show Ema is to love one another.”

Assisting Deckard with Spanish translation was Israel Gonzalez, who told those gathered that “one thing we can do to remember Ema is to not stop talking about her. Even if it hurts, keep talking about her.”

People hold each other as prayers are offered for hit-and-run victim Ema Cardenas and her family at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Des Moines on Sunday.

People from the crowd chimed with their own memories of Ema, who had been preparing to celebrate turning 15 in May with her quinceañera, a traditional Latina coming-of-age celebration.

“Ema always put others before herself. She had a pure heart,” someone from the crowd said.

“You knew Ema was in the room,” Gonzalez said. “She was a hugger. Before she would leave, she would hug everyone, all of her friends.”