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Remembering a friend

June 11, 2005

Rosette Gonzales

Friends and family of 9-year-old Fimi Mansour, who drowned during a

family vacation nearly a year ago, gathered Wednesday to dedicate a

tree and bench at Joaquin Miller Elementary to the girl who touched

their lives, if only for brief moment.

"Each spring, the pink blossoms on the crepe myrtle tree will

bring us a bit of the beauty that she brought us," said John Spence,

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Fimi's third-grade teacher.

Classmates, teachers and family members remain heartbroken at

their loss, but the memorial serves to remind them of her zest for

life and enthusiasm for learning.

Fimi's mother and relatives, dressed in black, wiped their eyes

with tissues frequently as classmates and school staff members spoke

Wednesday about the joyful child who was part of the school's family.

"People disappear but they never really go away," Principal Judy

Hession read from a poem. "I know that in our hearts, Fimi is doing

just fine."

Though it was an afternoon of remembrance, the mood was not dark.

Students who would have been Fimi's fourth-grade classmates lined up

to shovel dirt onto the newly planted tree.

Raghda Mansour, Fimi's mother, watched the children through her

tears, thankful for their kind gift.

"It means that all the children united and helped and when I see

the children, I remember Fimi," she said through a translator.

Fimi enjoyed school and learning so there was no more fitting

place than Miller Elementary School's quad for the memorial, teachers

and students said.

The effort was community driven. Students painted messages on

tiles, which rest beneath the bench and teachers, parents, civic

organizations and others contributed time and money to the project,

Spence said.

"Fimi was a delightful child who enriched my life as a teacher

last year," said Spence, pausing to hold back his tears. "She made

teaching a joy for me."

Fimi's absence was deeply felt but the memorial somehow offered

renewed life and comfort, friends and family said.

"It means ... a happy day because we're celebrating her life,"

Fimi's 8-year-old sister Silina Mansour said.

Pictures of Fimi were displayed on a table near the memorial. In

each one she was smiling. Even the sunshine reminded friends of Fimi.

"Today really makes me think of Fimi," Victoria Park, 9, said.

"Since the sun is shining a lot it makes me think of her, her big

smiling face. She was bright."

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