Christina Santiago of The Bronx was among those killed when a stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fair over the weekend, and friends shared their memories of her Monday. NY1’s Tetiana Anderson filed the following report.
Clutching each other and shedding tears, friends of Christina Santiago said they are fighting back grief over her death following a freak accident Saturday. Instead, they're working to celebrate her life.
"You never could be sad around her. She just brightened up a room, just her presence, her smile alone," said Erica Rico, a childhood friend.
"I know a lot of people who are waiting for their dreams to come true, and Christina was living her dreams," said Gabrielle Rivera, another childhood friend.
Santiago’s life ended when strong winds ripped apart the stage at a concert she was attending in Indianapolis. Even though bystanders rushed in after the stage was toppled, it wasn't soon enough to save Santiago and the four others who also died.
In The Bronx, friends said they found out about the loss of their friend through social media.
"It's a Sunday afternoon sitting at home scrolling through Facebook, and your world just collapses underneath you," said Elizabeth Johnson, one of Santiago's longtime friends.
One by one, friends started to gather in Wakefield Monday night to remember her.
They said she spent her childhood and teen years in The Bronx. She went to St. Anthony's School and Cardinal Spellman High School. Those that knew her best said the tragic death of Santiago's mother to cancer during her formative years helped mold her into the compassionate woman she became.
"From then on, Christina was always doing breast cancer walks and anything that involved women's rights and Latina rights and GLBT causes. That was her thing," said Rivera.
Friends said she carried on her mission to help others when she moved to Chicago between 2003 and 2004. She was an activist there fighting for LGBT issues and rights.
"Aside from any standing of sexuality or otherwise, she was just an amazing person," said Johnson.
“It’s a hard blow, but we have to just love each other. Love is what's holding us," said Rico.
As for the accident that killed Santiago and injured her partner, it is still under investigation.
A memorial service is scheduled for Christina in The Bronx on Thursday. She'll be buried on Friday.