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Final farewell to a friend

Raquel Carreras is remembered for her love of things girlish and grownup.

By EMILY NIPPS, Times Staff Writer
Published September 22, 2007

A young mourner hugs Michelle Carreras (foreground, right) during a viewing at Suncoast Cathedral in St. Petersburg for her daughter, Raquel Carreras, who was killed in a car accident last Saturday.

[Family photo]
Raquel Carreras, 14, was killed Sept. 15 after getting in the car with five other teenagers, all under 16. The 15-year-old driver, who got his learner's permit last month, lost control of the car and hit another vehicle.

ST. PETERSBURG - Not far from where the car swerved, flipped, crashed and ejected 14-year-old Raquel Carreras, friends and family got to see her one last time Friday night.

They gathered at Suncoast Cathedral, the parents, teachers and relatives far outnumbered by hundreds of teenagers, who grieved in the way that kids do. They wore homemade "R.I.P. Raquel" T-shirts and ribbons and beads in Jamaican flag colors, Raquel's favorite.

They sobbed and hugged as they stood in a 30-minute viewing line and watched a slide show featuring Raquel as a fat baby through her years as a chubby-cheeked teen. They gasped when they got to the open casket and saw Raquel lying still in her Northeast High School cheerleading uniform, hands folded, nails painted pink.

Raquel was killed Sept. 15 after getting in the car with five other teenagers, all under 16. The 15-year-old driver, who got his learner's permit last month, lost control of the car while traveling east on 62nd Avenue N and hit another vehicle. None of the passengers wore seat belts. All suffered minor injuries, except Raquel.

Some mourners stood up and spoke at the funeral, remembering a girl who loved having her picture taken, loved talking on the phone and put lots of pride and effort into her long brown hair. She liked to be silly and adored her mother, and in one of the hallways of the cathedral, a table was set with some of her most treasured belongings: a pink sequined purse, a curling iron, Care Bears, a box of Twinkies and other mementos of a child in transition.

It seemed as though those with the rawest emotions struggled to find the right words. They tried.

"I think cheerleading was good for her because she was very loud," said Raquel's 13-year-old sister, Ruthie. "We would fight, but we stopped fighting for the last month or so. God wanted us to get to know each other before she died.

"I hope the Northeast Vikings have a good football season. ... Bye."

Raquel's father, Alfredo, has said little in public since his daughter's death, but interrupted the service to talk to the students.

"I see all kinds of young kids looking up at me with tears in their eyes," he said. "I just want to say thank you for loving my daughter."

[Last modified September 21, 2007, 23:45:29]

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