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Service Honors Life Of 7-Year-Old Boy

Bus Crash Victim Mourned in Va.

By Tara Bahrampour
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 26, 2005; Page B01

Beneath a row of stained-glass windows lay fragments of a young boy's life, neatly arrayed. A plush lion. A soccer trophy. A school library book called "Tropical Storms and Hurricanes" that he had recently checked out to help his mother learn to read in English.

For the hundreds of mourners who filled St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Arlington yesterday, those fragments offered glimpses of Harrison Orosco, 7, who died Wednesday night, two days after his school bus collided with a trash truck.

The pews were filled with family and friends, teachers and county and school officials, people of all ages, Latino and white, some holding toddlers, children who had checked out of school to attend the funeral with their parents, and strangers who said they just wanted to offer support.

But it was hard to comfort a mother who had lost her only son.

"She went up and just wept on the coffin for four or five minutes before the Mass began," said Soren Johnson, the church's communications director, speaking of Marisol Gamboa, 27. "She was just saying the name of her son."

Arlington police have said it could take weeks to determine what caused the crash, which occurred April 18 as students were on their way to Hoffman-Boston Elementary School. One other child was killed and 15 other people were injured. On Sunday, investigators reenacted the accident and said that they were interviewing witnesses and examining the vehicles to get more information.

But at church yesterday, all the focus was on the accident's youngest fatality. The Rev. Gerard Creedon, the church's pastor, gave a homily in Spanish that described how he had baptized Harrison three years ago and how he recently had been helping to prepare the boy for his First Communion, which was scheduled for next month. Creedon held up a red felt banner signed by some of Harrison's friends and spoke of the boy's outgoing personality and his faith in Jesus.

Harrison's cousin Maria Garcia, 35, recalled his intelligence and love of soccer, and she told a story about how earlier this month, after he and godfather Jose Cavero saw "The Incredibles," Harrison told Cavero that he was like Mr. Incredible and Harrison was like the little boy in the movie, Mr. Incredible's son. Garcia broke into tears as she finished the story.

Afterward, as mourners walked out clutching small angel figurines imprinted with the dates of Harrison's birth and death, Creedon recalled a boy who was "full of life and full of enthusiasm" and who had "this tremendous quality of engaging with people."

Creedon said that on Sunday he had visited the family, whose members have been parishioners at the church for three or four years. In Harrison's room, he saw the cross the boy had made from a palm leaf last month on Palm Sunday. He said Gamboa, who is Peruvian, had asked him over as part of a cleansing tradition observed in some Latino communities.

"They're scared," he said, "so she had me go over to bless the house to give the sense that bad things wouldn't continue to happen."

Such small steps toward healing seemed overshadowed yesterday by sorrow. At Arlington's Columbia Gardens Cemetery, where Harrison was buried, his stepsister Milagros Gamboa, 11, who also was injured in the crash, placed a single rose on his coffin. As it was being lowered into the ground, Harrison's mother dissolved into tears and begged her son not to leave her. Then she clutched a handful of soil and wept.

"Marisol's heart is broken, it's just broken," said Laurie Granger, who has employed Gamboa as a nanny for three years and has been the family's spokeswoman since the accident. "I really think she defined herself through her son."

Granger said she hoped Gamboa would be helped by the recent birth of a daughter, and by the network of family, community members and social workers who have surrounded her since Wednesday. But she added that Gamboa is a private person unused to sharing her feelings.

"She has lost her soul right now," Granger said, "and it will take a long time for her to get it back."

El Tiempo Latino staff writer Milagros Melendez-Vela contributed to this report.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company