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Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Guadalupe Rodriguez, grandmother of Jennifer and Daniel Lopez, and Alfredo Lopez, their father, release balloons.

PROVO — Hundreds of colorful balloons were released to the sky by children on Friday morning, all done in the spirit of saying a final farewell to two classmates whose lives were cut short in a car accident.

Students at Farrer Elementary School honored the two children, Jennifer Lopez, 8, and Daniel Lopez, 7, by releasing the balloons.

"She was my best friend," said Sean Midson, 9, a third-grader at Farrer Elementary, who said he misses playing tag with Jennifer during recess.

After a week of having the school flag at half-staff to recognize the two students' deaths, school administration raised the flag back to full-staff Friday morning.

"Daniel and Jennifer were an important part of our lives — they were a part of the school family," said Farrer Elementary Principal Don Dowdle.

Students then released 450 multicolored balloons heavenward on their school lawn at 100 N. 600 East. Tied to the balloon strings were notes that read: "In memory of Daniel and Jennifer Lopez" and contained the school name and address.

Dowdle said the students in previous years had released balloons for events such as Red Ribbon Week, an educational anti-drug campaign. One of those balloons was found as far away as South Dakota.

It's interesting to get responses from those who find the message, Dowdle said. "It's amazing how far the balloons can go," he said.

Friday afternoon, a Farrer school secretary said one person had already called and reported finding a balloon in south Provo.

The memorial was followed by the school's annual dance festival.

The deceased children's mother, father and older brother were at the event, along with their grandmother.

Through a Spanish interpreter for an interview, the family members expressed their appreciation for the school's efforts and indicated that it helped with their grieving process. "They are here — they are up there watching," said Guadalupe Rodriguez, the children's grandmother.

On May 18, the two children were traveling in an automobile that was making a left-hand turn when an eastbound truck hit their vehicle broadside near Vivian Park on U.S. 189. The two children, who weren't wearing seat belts, were ejected from their car.

They died at the scene from head trauma.

The children's mother was taken to University Hospital via medical helicopter. She was treated and released later that night.

Another child, Alfredo, 13, was taken to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. He was treated and released the next day.

A fund has been set up in the children's names at Washington Mutual at 310 N. University Ave., Suite 100, Provo, or any branch, to help with funeral expenses.

Also as a fundraiser, a well-known Provo couple, John and Sue Curtis, are auctioning five Miley Cyrus concert tickets on eBay to benefit the Lopez family.

Sue Curtis said that as of Friday, the tickets had not been sold. "It is a worthy cause," she said. "They could definitely use the money more than we can."

Jennifer and Daniel's teachers say their students are recovering from the loss of their classmates. Earlier this week grief counselors talked with the children. The students wrote memorial letters for the children's family.

"They have internalized that Daniel isn't coming back," said Farrer first-grade teacher Marissa Crane.

Deborah Burt, who teaches third grade at Farrer, said the first few days were the hardest for the kids. "We have been talking about the happy times we had with them," Burt said. "It's important to get their feelings out."

Third-grader Sofia Valante, 9, said, "I was friends with her. I want her to be here."

Third-grader Israel Gourdin, 9, said, "I miss talking to Jennifer."


E-mail: astewart@desnews.com