OAKLAND -- Smiles. Laughter. Energy. Those were the traits shared over and over by more than 300 people who gathered Thursday at Castlemont High School to remember four Oakland cousins killed when their rented SUV crashed southwest of Bakersfield earlier this week.
Grieving family and friends of David Moa, 19; George Moa, 19; Malia Moa, 17; and Rachel Fisi'iahi, 19, took to the football field at lunchtime to honor the memory of the four teenagers killed Monday. The enormous crowd also kept in their thoughts Hunter Halatoa, 17, who was injured in the crash but is expected to survive.
The cousins "lived to inspire and inspired (us) to live," said George Moa's sister, Siu Vave, of Oakland. "They shared joy. That
The memorial, planned by Castlemont students and staff in just two days, was so well attended that sections of bleachers in the football stadium were practically full, said school principal John Lynch.
The ceremony included a traditional Polynesian dance as well as a presentation of David Moa's former jersey to his family -- Moa was a football player at the high school before he graduated in 2012. He loved the sport and was training with the Laney College football team in hopes of becoming one of their next tight ends.
"The families are all very touched at this unexpected tribute," Vave said, wiping at tears that trickled down her face. "The tears of the students lightened the family's burden."
The teens were driving home from a weekend spent watching a rugby match in Las Vegas when George Moa fell asleep at the wheel, crashing and flipping the vehicle on Highway 58 near Mojave. The cousins loved the sport and finally had won the privilege from their parents to make the solo trip to Vegas.
The teens' kindness and ebullient personalities were an oft-repeated refrain at the memorial. Dozens of students wore T-shirts with the faces of the four teens; some of the shirts read
Oakland High School student Pola Leka, 16, was friends with the cousins and briefly left class to attend the memorial.
She smiled as she talked about time spent with the Moas and how "there was never a dull moment" when she hung out with them, be it band practice or if she spotted them while she was driving down a street.
"They were good people; they were never negative and always friendly," Leka said. "They were always down to meet new people."
Castlemont student Moala Halatola, 16, echoed Leka's sentiments.
Her left hand was scribbled on in different colors of black, brown and a little blue, shortly but sweetly paying tributes to special memories she had of her cousins.
"Love Momo," "#8400 kisses," and "Miss you" were just some of the phrases adorning her hand.
"This is the first time I have had to deal with something like this, and I'm surprised it hit me as hard as it did," she said softly. "They were so full of life, so young. With them, there was always laughing, they were the life of the party."
Halatola looked down when she said one of the hardest parts of the grieving process was that the entire family was beginning to plan a family reunion.
Now, they were planning a funeral.
Although spirits remained relatively upbeat during the school memorial, dozens that gathered at Fuller Funerals on International Boulevard just hours later were far more somber.
Rather than smiles, there were tears, silence and little laughter.
While the parents of the teens sat with their children in backrooms, family and friends hugged, nodded to one another and then sat, waiting to pay their respects.
After the memorial, Vave said she hoped the young people who attended would be able to take something positive away from seeing how many lives the cousins had touched.
'The families are grateful for love, support and the kind words," Vave said after the memorial. "It's just so much love."
Contact Katie Nelson at 925-945-4780 or follow her at Twitter.com/katienelson210.