Surrounded by many of her daughter's friends, standing arm-in-arm in front of West High School, Stephanie Rendon held a picture of her daughter, Alyssa Marie Lopez, and cried openly as she remembered how much her daughter loved life.
"She was a happy, joyful person," Rendon said. "She's going to be well missed."
Lopez, a 17-year-old junior, was killed in a three car collision in the 5100 block of Harrison Boulevard Tuesday afternoon. The car that hit her was full of her friends from West High School. Both vehicles were driving home from a high school basketball game in Ogden.
At West on Wednesday, students cried openly in the hallways and on the front steps of the school's entrance as they learned of what had happened. Lopez was a popular girl, according to many students, a member of the cheerleading squad and one that everyone in school knew.
Lopez was not part of the cheer squad that was participating in the basketball game Tuesday. But many of her friends were. Members of the squad joined Rendon in front of the school Wednesday to console each other and share memories.
"Alyssa had a zest for life," said Kim Caputo-Schnieder, the adult supervisor of the cheer squad. "She prided herself on how brutally honest she was. She told you how it was with the biggest heart behind it ... We're struggling because we lost one of our own. But we'll make sense of this."
Caputo-Schnieder said Lopez was a "determined" girl who worked to be the best she could, whether it was at home taking care of her three younger brothers and 18-year-old step-sister, at school with her studies or with cheerleading. Most of the other members of the cheer squad looked up to Lopez.
"Her smile lit up the entire room. She had such a big heart. She was always there for anyone," said Tessa Nelson, a cheerleader. "I looked up to her for the role she played in her family. She was such a beautiful, talented girl. She loved learning. We're just going to miss her so much. She played such a big role in all of our lives.
In addition to the fatality, another 17-year-old student was seriously injured and two others received minor injuries. Police said a boy driving one car tried to catch up to the car Lopez was riding in, weaving in-and-out of traffic.
His car clipped the vehicle Lopez was riding in, sending it into a spin and into north bound lanes of traffic, police said. It was T-boned by another vehicle.
Ogden police said at least one of the other students injured needed surgery, but his injuries were not life threatening. Police did not have an update on the student's condition Wednesday morning.
All of the students involved were juniors, said West principal Margery Parker. They were all involved in either cheerleading or school athletics and were known by members of the basketball team.
The school used three buses to transport students, athletes and her friends in the cheerleading squad to and from the game Tuesday. Grief counselors were already waiting at the school when the buses returned.
When news of the accident reached West administration, Parker said she activated the faculty phone tree to notify all of West's 120 teachers of the incident.
The school's six crisis counselors were all at the school Wednesday. An estimated 40 students talked to counselors Tuesday evening and about the same were expected to do the same today, Parker said. At the start of school Wednesday, Parker addressed the student body via the school's closed circuit television to inform them of what had happened and who was involved.
In addition to being well liked, Parker said Lopez was a good student who took many advanced classes.
A school memorial service for Lopez was scheduled for Thursday on the north side of the football field. Students were invited to write their favorite memories of Alyssa on a sticker which would then be placed on a plastic cup. Students planned to spell out Alyssa's name using those cups in the fence near the field about noon.
"She was really pretty, really sweet and kind, not stuck up. She would listen to what people say," said student Maria Perez.
"She was cool. She was strong. She was a sweet girl," remembered student Sala Afeaki. I couldn't even sleep last night."
Gabe Burroughs remembered Lopez as a quiet girl, but one who would stick up for herself if needed.
Rendon says she misses everything about her daughter and hopes other high school students might learn from the tragic accident.
"I just hope everyone learns, don't play games in the road," she tearfully pleaded.
The accident was still under investigation Wednesday by Ogden police. Investigators said they needed to conduct more interviews and analyze more evidence before deciding, what, if any, charges would be filed.A fund to help Lopez's family was expected to be set up at all Zion's Bank branches by Thursday.
E-mail: [email protected]