Those are the words of a song written in remembrance of Rebeka Verea, who was killed in a car accident in North Bergen last year following her graduation celebration from Cliffside Park High School.
Her parents - Dr. Jorge Verea, the chief medical officer for the North Hudson Community Action Corporation and a renowned community health advocate, and his wife Lourdes -have continued to honor their daughter's memory by talking to schools around the state to raise awareness about automobile safety.
According to Chris Irizarry, the CEO of the NHCAC, about 7,000 teenagers died in automobile accidents in the United States last year.
Through the Rebeka Verea Foundation, the Verea Family has been trying to make sure other families are spared such a tragedy.
Now due to the family's efforts, the NHCAC, based in West New York, felt it only fitting to honor them, especially as the anniversary of the accident approaches.
The NHCAC, a non-profit agency that provides health care and screenings for area residents, recognized last week as Rebeka Verea Safe Driving Week. Several initiatives were planned to cut down on the number of young victims of car accidents.
Rebeka Verea Safe Driving Week
"Last year, Dr. and Mrs. Verea lost their youngest daughter and started this foundation to honor her memory by directly saving lives," said Irizarry last week. "As we go into prom and graduation week, they have really worked hard to reach out to students. It is really important in our community to stress the importance of driving safely, especially among our youngsters."
Banners commemorating the week were hung at all seven NHCAC sites throughout New Jersey. All locations planned to offer informational pamphlets and educational programs about vehicle safety.
At the main site in West New York, workshops were scheduled throughout the departments.
"We're giving out some pamphlets on driver safety, and in pediatrics, stressing to parents the importance of car seats and wearing helmets on bicycles," said Irizarry.
In addition, Rosemary Lafamine, vice president of NHCAC, was able to allocate funds to purchase a car seat for every NHCAC site, to be raffled off in each pediatrics department.
"One of the ways of promoting healthy children is by providing for their safety," said Lafamine.
On June 20, 2005 just hours after celebrating her high school graduation, Verea was riding in the passenger seat of a Mercedes Benz. Friend Alexis Torres, 19, of North Bergen was at the wheel. The two were apparently returning from a graduation party, and possibly speeding. At 74th Street and West Side Avenue, the car collided with a tractor-trailer, which severed the car's roof.
Torres, who was not wearing his seat belt, was flung from the car and treated at Jersey City Medical Center for an assortment of injuries. Verea, who was wearing her seat belt, was killed instantly.
As part of the memorial, Irizarry presented a citation commending the Verea family on behalf of the NHCAC community and left the good doctor and his family with these parting words: "We know this is a hard week coming up for you and your family, but we are here for you and we support you."
"This is the greatest honor you could give our daughter for her first anniversary," said Verea. "One of the things I have learned this year, and this being a very difficult week, is that you have to keep your eyes open."
Verea briefly shared with those in attendance a revelation he had last night. For the first time in a while, Dr. Verea was overwhelmed by a very busy work schedule that kept him out until the earlier morning hours.
However, as soon as he came home, he went to a fountain he had built in his yard to reflect on the day.
"That is where I reflect on our loss, and it's a place where I meet with Rebeka," said a trembling Verea. "And somehow, in the worse of my days, I find peace and I find hope. I saw hope in that fountain and today look at the sun."
He added, "No matter how tough it gets for you, realize that there is a rainbow, there is a light, and I know that Rebeka and Mr. Leggiero [the late head of the NHCAC] are looking upon us today. Thank you and God bless you."
As the ceremony closed, the organizers played a recording of a song written and sung by former NHCAC employee Celina Gray that was made in Rebeka's memory. Tears streamed down the faces of her parents, friends and many others in attendance.
The lyrics went: "Rebeka, your rainbow keeps shining. You helped us see the light."
For more information, please visit the website at www.rebekavereafoundation.org. q