“Are they about to come out?” Brisa Bobadilla asked, as she stood outside St. Jude Catholic Church in Mansfield at sunset Monday.
Bobadilla and three friends clutched big bunches of white balloons. The balloons, full of helium and tugging at the tangled ribbons, were for their friend Carlos Perez.
“They’re just to tell him he’s free to go,” Bobadilla said. “It’s over. We’re all happy he’s OK, at least up there.”
Inside the church, hundreds of mourners gathered for a memorial Mass for the Mansfield Lake Ridge ninth-grader who disappeared in rough waters Friday morning near a pier off Padre Island in South Texas. His body was recovered Monday on a shore about 25 miles away.
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Classmates, teachers and family members wore white and black and filled most of the spacious sanctuary at St. Jude.
Two priests said the Mass in Spanish and English.
“You come with that great question: Why did this tragic accident happen?” one priest said. “I don’t have an answer, and I don’t think anyone will.”
Before the service, Katy Arreola, a Lake Ridge ninth-grader, remembered Perez’s enthusiasm — for everything. She said she had two classes with him, math and English, and that he worked at a local Olive Garden.
“He was very intelligent, and very suppporting, too,” she said. “He made everyone happy. I couldn’t make it to my math class today.”
Bobadilla said Perez loved energy drinks and almost always brought a Monster or Red Bull to class.
After the service, the crowd gathered outside of the church’s entrance, each person holding onto a white balloon.
When Perez’s family came out, his brother spoke briefly before releasing his balloon with the rest of the crowd.
“These balloons,” he said, “mean my brother’s soul.”