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.”
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.
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 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.”
“I remember the things she would say to me every single time that she saw me every week. She’d say, ‘Anthony one day I’m going to be taller than you,’” said Anthony Ortiz, a youth leader at the church. “And I’d always tell her, ‘you’re probably going to be taller than me,’ since she was very tall for her age.”
After Campos spoke, the crowd congregated around her and her family in a group prayer, hugging one another. Then they released balloons into the wind.
It has been a tragic period for East High. In March, a 15-year old Latino teenager was killed in drive-by shooting outside the school. Police have said they believe it was gang related. Two other Latina students were wounded in the gunfire but survived.
More:Family of victim of shooting by East High remembers Jose Lopez-Perez, 15, as ‘larger than life’
Anyone with information about the accident that killed Ema is asked to call the Des Moines Police Department Traffic Unit at 515-323-8370. Anonymous tips may also be submitted.