June 30 began as a typical fun Sunday for Melissa, Justin and Jeff La Valle.
The three siblings, who mostly hung out together, took advantage of the sunny weather to go to the city for the Chicago Pride Parade with friends.
They were on their way home to Glenview, where twins Jeff and Justin were planning to finish painting their parents' living room, when their world turned upside down.
That evening Jeff La Valle fell on the CTA tracks and made contact with the 600-volt third rail in the middle of a crowded Howard Street platform. Witnesses saw Jeff walk backward to the edge of the platform as he tried to make way for a group in front of him.
"I walked away for a minute, and I just hear, 'Oh, my God,' and I turn around and I just see (Jeff) laying on the tracks," said Justin La Valle, 26.
A few seconds was all it took Justin to jump down to try to save his brother.
"I didn't even think twice about the third rail," he said. "I just jumped down immediately. I was going to do whatever it takes."
Justin was immediately shocked when he touched the rail as he tried to lift his brother, who was being electrocuted. Melissa La Valle, 22, followed Justin onto the tracks, screaming for help. But Justin yelled at her to stay away from the voltage, which was pulsing through Jeff's body. Justin, who recovered after touching the rail, continued to be shocked by the electricity going through Jeff's body as he was trying to pull him up.
More than 450 gathered Friday at a funeral home in Skokie to celebrate Jeff's life. Family and friends described him as someone who liked to smile and tried to resolve conflicts between people whenever he could.
"He was the sweetest one," said Debbie La Valle, mother of Jeff, Justin, Melissa and Al Jr., 28. "He was my boy."
After the funeral, the family reminisced on Saturday about the last weekend they spent together in celebration of Father's Day. Jeff, whom the family lovingly called "Jeff the Chef," took charge of the dinner, and the evening was marked by laughter and smiles.
"Jeff will always be with us," said Melissa, who was also shocked briefly when trying to pull Jeff away from the rail.
For Justin, who was born 11 minutes before Jeff and spent almost every day with his twin brother, going about his daily routine may never feel the same.
"It was never 'What am I doing today?' but 'What are we up to today?'" Justin said.
The two went to the same high school and college, graduating from the University of Illinois at Chicago in December 2011. Later this summer, the brothers looked forward to sailing with their friends and their older brother Al Jr. on a boat both worked on fixing.
"(Jeff) had the ability to touch your heart," said Al Jr.
Devastated over the loss of one of their sons, Debbie and Al La Valle, who have raised all four of their children in Glenview, said the family hoped to educate the community on the dangers of the third rail, which supplies CTA trains with electricity.
"A lot of suburban kids don't even know what the third rail is," said Al La Valle, 57.
He added that some kind of additional safety precautions should be taken, especially during big events in the city when hundreds of people crowd the CTA trains.
"We want to try to save other people," La Valle said.
So far in 2013, two people have died from electrocution on the CTA tracks, said CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase. In 2012 the number was six, and in 2011 there was one.
Justin, who doctors said was lucky to have survived after touching the third rail, said he would have jumped again if the incident were repeated.
"I'm so fortunate to have the last seconds with him in my arms," said Justin, who has scars on his right arm and heel from the electricity.
After CTA workers turned off the power, Justin said he saw Jeff look up and smile at him while he was in his arms before the paramedics arrived.
"If I didn't try to save him, I'd be living with that for the rest of my life," he said.