‘Heartbreak and remembrance’

William S. Hart Union High School District students walk and hold the city of Santa Clarita's Walk of Remembrance banner on Thursday. According to Gabby Vera, volunteer event coordinator, high schools students played several roles during the remembrance. Jose Herrera/The Signal

Santa Clarita hosts 17th annual Evening of Remembrance at Central Park’s Youth Grove 

Susan Collier caressed an image of her daughter, Jessica Brooke Collier, forever 21, who died in a traffic-related incident — similar to the other 117 Santa Clarita Valley youth whose names are engraved at the Youth Grove monument.  

With tears spilling down her cheeks, Collier bent down, put her fingers to her lips then her fingers onto the simulated tree stump with her daughter’s name engraved on it. Collier thought she would be alone for the city of Santa Clarita’s 17th annual Evening of Remembrance.  

But she was not, as her friends John Slavinski and Kathy Dagg surprised her. 

“They came, and I thought I was going to be here by myself,” Collier said. 

John Slavinski embraces Susan Collier during the 17th annual Evening of Remembrance at the Youth Grove in Central Park on Thursday. Collier lost her daughter Jessica Brooke Collier in a traffic-related incident. Jose Herrera/The Signal

Last year, Collier attended with her fiancé to remember her daughter. However, he died due to complications from COVID-19 sometime after, she added. 

Slavinski, who’s known Collier for a few years, and Dagg, who’s known Collier for 20 years, knew they had to be in attendance and provide their support. According to Slavinski, the Evening of Remembrance is about heartbreak and honoring loved ones. 

“You just have to remember. You can’t ever let it go,” Slavinski said.  

Susan Collier wrapped her daughter’s monument in fresh flowers during the 17th annual Evening of Remembrance, hosted by the city of Santa Clarita. Jose Herrera/The Signal

The city of Santa Clarita hosts the Evening of Remembrance at Youth Grove in Central Park as a way to honor local youth, 24 and younger, who died in traffic-related incidents, and to remind Santa Clarita Valley residents to drive safely, according to Gabby Vera, volunteer engagement coordinator for the city. 

The remembrance began with a walk around Central Park to raise awareness among community members, Vera said. Then the program began with special speakers, performers and a slideshow with the names, ages and pictures of those who being remembered, she added. 

“It’s a visual to show people how many lives we’ve lost,” Vera said. 

The Evening of Remembrance also serves as way to raise awareness about traffic and driving safely, and hopefully, remind people to be more mindful on the road, according to Vera.  

“The more that we raise awareness, the less families will have to mourn together,” Vera said. 

Capt. Justin Diez of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station opened the program with a few remarks. He reiterated 118 youth lives lost in traffic-related incidents is too many.   

Alice Renolds, with her granddaughter Natalie, speaks to attendees and imparts some words on the pain and healing of losing a loved one to a traffic-related incident. Renolds lost her two teenage sons almost 20 years ago. Jose Herrera/The Signal

“It’s my hope that you will join me in reflection and make a pledge to be safe, to be sober and to be focused when driving,” Diez said. 

Students of Hart, Saugus, Golden Valley, Castaic and Canyon high schools were in attendance as well, and many served in various roles to make the Evening of Remembrance a success, according to Vera. She also thanked SCV Youth Orchestra for their performance of “Amazing Grace.” 

Alice Renolds and her granddaughters gave the closing remarks — Alice lost her two teenage sons more than 20 years ago in a high-speed car crash. 

“Our children remain forever young, sadly. Each young life ended in a traffic incident,” Renolds said. “Hopefully, tonight we will be able to reach deep in our hearts and gather some special memories, whether they be few or many. We hope those memories that come to life will bring you some strength.” 

Lexi Renolds, granddaughter of Alice Renolds, address the crowd during the 18th annual Evening of Remembrance. Lexi talked about the importance of being focused when driving and encouraging everyone to be safe when being on the road. Jose Herrera/The Signal

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