Community Attends Two Memorials For Caitlin Finucane
(December 4, 2004) -- In a steady rain, community members overflowed LB's All Saints' Anglican Church, after which clouds parted for a Cal Hts. tree planting and plaque unveiling to memorialize the life of 16-year old Caitlin Finucane.
A crowd of roughly 400 people pressed into the Belmont Heights chapel (which holds 250), some lining walls, others standing in doorways or gathering outside. Father Donald White told the crowd that Caitlin, who perished following a November 27 traffic accident, had "lived life large."
"Life is bigger than death, and that's why you're in this place today. And that's why when we leave here, we will leave in celebration of a life...Life is eternal," Father White said.
Close friends offered remembrances and prayers. Dr. Marlene Rocha Farooq recalled occasions when she'd seen the vivacious teen quickly come and go...and at each recalled thinking, "Wait Caitlin, please don't go, stay a little longer, I miss your presence." She quoted the Russell Kelfer poem which includes the lines, "You are who you are for a reason,
You've been formed by the Master's rod. You are who you are, beloved, Because there is a God."
"I love you, Caitlin," Dr. Farooq said.
Family friend Kathi Kowal said, "Cait wanted to be everything, and she was everything to us. She was a mentor, a model, a wonderful friend...She was intuitive and wise, she inspired you to go higher than you ever thought you could. She was competitive, determined and exasperating. She was funny...a quick, bodacious kind of funny. She was lightning in a bottle, she was a big hug."
A few hours later, a ceremony organized by community members took place at the site of the accident.
Cal Heights Neighborhood Association president Albert Guerra said that within a period of roughly 48 hours, a memorial plaque was created for Caitlin.
Bixby Knolls neighborhood activist John Williams looks on.
"We have a lamp post restoration program [a plaque is engraved when someone restores one of the lamp posts] and dedicating a plaque to Caitlin seemed like a good way to honor her," Mr. Guerra told LBReport.com.
City Light & Power repainted the lamp post for the ceremony, he said.
7th district Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga with Caitlin's sister, Alison, and mother Kathleen.
In addition to the plaque, James Kao, who organizes Cal Hts. "re-leaf" tree plantings with the neighborhood group, "found a tree" -- a Queen Palm -- at a southbay nursery. At the ceremony, it was planted nearby to serve as a living memorial. "It's going to grow into a pretty big tree," Mr. Kao said.
Standing near the new tree, Councilwoman Reyes Uranga thanked the Finucane family "for allowing us to do this" and said, "This is such a beautiful ceremony for us in the neighborhood to really commemorate [Caitlin's] life."
Cal Hts. Neighborhood Ass'n president Guerra credited 7th district Councilwoman Reyes Uranga with facilitating the event with multiple City Hall departments.
The Councilwoman said she was especially impressed by the many young people who attended the event.
Inviting young people to come forward first, Mr. Guerra said, "Help us plant this tree...You will become one with this tree, because this is Caitlin's tree."
As day slipped into dusk and the ceremony neared its conclusion, Terry Finucane, Dr. Farooq and Kathi Kowal shared a quiet moment at the memorial plaque.
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