Friends, family say goodbye to bus crash victim Adrian Castro

After the vigil, the remembrances, the tales of heroism recounted, what remains is the sorrow.

On a blustery, bright morning in El Monte, the friends and family of Adrian Castro came together at the Church of the Nativity to say goodbye to the 19-year-old, who died earlier this month in a traffic accident in Northern California.

"We are gathered today in grief and sadness for our brother, Adrian," said Father Beto Villalobos.

Adrian, a senior at El Monte High School, had joined other students for a spring tour of Humboldt State University when their charter bus was struck by a FedEx truck on Interstate 5 north of Sacramento. The accident killed four other students, three chaperons and the drivers of both vehicles.

White Easter lilies decorated the altar of the church, where a gray-and-silver casket lay on its bier. Adrian's mother, Veronica Soriano, and his father, Raul Castro, sat in the first pew, as two family members stood to read from the Book of Wisdom and the Epistles.

Nearly 300 people filled the church. Most wore some shade of royal blue, the color of Adrian's high school team. Lapel ribbons, commemorating his life, had been passed out.

They had come to the church the night before to say the Rosary and, afterward, to share their memories.

"Adrian got inside your heart, and he stayed there," said Wendy Wilson, 69, who has known the family for more than 20 years and recounted taking Adrian and his parents to his first Dodgers game when the boy was a year old.

Angel Gonzalez, 18, recalled how he first met Adrian. They were both Lions, playing football for El Monte High School. Gonzalez was a running back; Adrian was a cornerback who one day hoped to study sports medicine. He had been accepted at Cal State Fullerton, but Humboldt was his first choice.

Gonzalez told how Adrian played Rosa Parks for a school history project, but then Gonzalez's words tapered off.

"There is no more to say, but I'll be here forever," he said.

In the entryway, a poster had been set up with photographs showing a handsome young man with the look of a boy still in his eyes. On another occasion, the inscription might have served as dedications in a yearbook, with cursive letters dotted with hearts and one with a gothic slant as if it were a tag.

Caaastro!! Love you bro. Everyone is missing you down here. you won't be forgotten. UR a real 1.

Rest in peace I'm going to miss you in first period. You will forever be in my heart. One day when we meet again we will wear our cowgirl/boy boots.

You will always be in our hearts. Your beautiful smile will always brighten my day. You laugh will always be music to my ears. I'll keep you in my [heart] forever.

Words spoken, a line formed in the church's center aisle, an opportunity to share private condolences with the mother and father as well as Adrian's younger brothers, Roman, 16, and Solan, 10, who at times casually placed his arm upon the casket.

On Friday evening, rain was falling as cars drove away.

Saturday morning was clear, swept by gray and silver clouds, and Villalobos' homily began with a reading from the Gospel of John, in which Martha reproaches Jesus for not being present at the time her brother, Lazarus, died.

"She was upset," the priest explained. "She was angry. She had questions. Probably the same questions you have this morning. Probably the same anger you have this morning."

But, as Villalobos reminded them, Jesus makes no excuses. He does not try to explain why Lazarus died. It is a moment to test Martha's faith.