Daniel Perez Cueva

Daniel Perez Cueva

Hometown: Woodbridge, Va.

Age: 21

Class: Junior

Major: International Studies

Location: Norris Hall

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Profile: In 2002, Daniel Perez Cueva, 21, moved to Woodbridge from Peru, enrolled at Hylton High School and pursued the dream he and his mother shared: a university degree.

It was not to be. The junior international studies major, with a minor in French, was killed in Norris Hall.

"He was a very, very advanced student," remembered Mariel Amador Morales, his high school teacher of English for Speakers of Other Languages. "A very smart young man."

Two years after arriving in the United States, Perez graduated from high school and enrolled at a community college in Miami, transferred to Northern Virginia Community College and then to Virginia Tech. This spring, said his best friend, Hugo Quintero, Perez had been interviewing with the French and Italian embassies in Washington, hoping for a summer internship.

"We both come from very humble backgrounds," Quintero said yesterday, unable to separate himself from his fallen friend and unable to think in the past tense. "We're both hardworking, trying to be the best we can. We come from abroad, and we're trying to achieve the American dream."

It was a dream Perez's mother, Betty Cueva, hoped to achieve for her children. "Her goal," Amador said yesterday, "was to put her kids through college." In Peru, Cueva had been a teacher. Here, she cleaned houses, cooked at a restaurant and ironed clothes for extra money. Her son, too, was working hard: In high school, he was a member of the National Honor Society and a swimmer.

"He was one of the best swimmers at the time from Hylton," Quintero said. "He went to regionals. He was an unthinkable athlete." He spoke both French and Italian, family friends said. "We are talking about a great human," Amador said.

Perez's father is still in Peru, and the family has been working on getting him a visa.

In the short time since Perez died, Quintero has been listening to one of their favorite songs, "Amigos," by an old Argentine rock group, Los Enanitos Verdes. The lyrics, he said, are essentially this: "No matter where the place is, you'll always have a friend in me."

As soon as Quintero heard about the shootings, "I began to call Daniel, but he wasn't picking up his phone. I tried to call again, but the call wasn't going through, and then I said, 'Maybe he's taking care of people. Maybe he's stressed out.' "

He exchanged messages with friends of Perez's and talked to Perez's older sister, who lives in Seattle, but no one had news until Perez's sister called Quintero after 10 p.m. Monday.

"I've got news about Daniel," he remembered hearing. "He didn't make it."

-- Darragh Johnson, The Washington Post

© 2007 The Washington Post Company