By Briana Vannozzi
The flicker of white candles lit up Columbus Park in Hoboken. Community members mourned the loss of one of their own.
“I really, truly wish that there was a way for me to share my memories of Fabiola and Julia with you. All the hugs, the smiles, the laughs, the kisses. But sadly there’s only so much words can do,” said Sapphire Lopez, daycare worker at Smart Start Academy.
They gathered to honor the 34-year-old mother, Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, killed by debris during the New Jersey Transit train crash in Hoboken last week. Smart Start Academy, the daycare which looked after de Kroon’s 1-year-old daughter Julia, organized the vigil.
“She’s not just this tragedy, it’s not just the Hoboken incident and the parent who died. She is truly the most devoted mother I’ve ever met in my life, she radiated such positivity and was such a great woman overall that it’s very tragic the way it ended had to be this way,” Lopez said.
“We’re a very close community. We share a lot of things about having children in such a small town so even though I didn’t know her you kind of feel like you do. We all feel like you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. It could have been any one of us. We come together as a community just to help each other out,” said Hoboken resident Caroline Henderson.
“Our city is strong and it is no surprise there are so many people here tonight to pay their respects to Fabiola and her family. When our community loses someone it affects all of us,” said Hoboken City Council President Jen Giattino.
This as New Jersey Transit workers removed the damaged commuter train to undergo further investigation. A data recorder and video from a forward-facing camera in the front of the train revealed it was going twice the 10 mile per hour speed limit just before impact. Federal investigators say the engineer hit the emergency brake a second before it slammed into the bumping post. NJ Transit today announcing partial rail service will resume at the station starting Monday.
Henderson, a South African native, felt a kinship with the recently emigrated mother.
“I also travel to Morristown most days for work and I usually go to the train station around 8:30, 8:45 and particularly that day I was running late so yeah it’s very close to home,” she said.
In a letter from de Kroon’s husband Dan, he said she lives on through their daughter: “It is my life mission to build on Fabiola’s dedication by providing Julia with a life full of joy, health and love. And along the way listen very well to what Fabiola will whisper in my ear.”
So far about $20,000 has been raised through two separate GoFundMe accounts. Part of that money will go to orphanages in Brazil, per the family’s request. The other part, a scholarship for their young daughter.