Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019 | 2 a.m.
When Maria Conchos would drop her daughter off at school, the 12-year-old was accustomed to bidding farewell with a sweet “I love you, Ma.”
Through heartfelt testimonies on Tuesday night, Monet Garcia’s young peers from school and the ice rink — where she practiced competitive figure skating — demonstrated to the grieving mother how far the girl’s kindness extended.
As evening fell, candlelight reflected off teary faces outside the SoBe Ice Arena in North Las Vegas, where vigil attendees gathered to mourn Monet and her father, Mark Garcia, 42. Both were killed four days earlier after a motorcyclist slammed into their car.
Between gut-wrenching sobs, the hands of the mostly young mourners shot upward as they awaited their turn on a microphone to lovingly speak about their friend — the girl who only needed her smile and infectious laugh to transform the worst of days into warm interactions.
Conchos would hear about how her girl, a seventh-grader at Knudson Middle School, was drawn to kids who felt bullied and unwanted.
As one girl put it, Monet was “just someone I found that really was amazing and fun to hang out with. I have met a lot of people in my lifetime who have judged me for who I was or have just said mean things to me. And she treated me the kindest way possible.”
Another girl spoke about struggling to make friends, thinking that she’d perhaps never make one. But Monet immediately befriended her when they met, she said.
Then there were those who met her in second, third and sixth grades. The kids remember a joyful classmate who once was so hungry that a teacher gave her a banana that she ate in front of class, offering her classmates a bite.
The girl who shared that anecdote spoke about her friend’s positive vibes. “Even if she didn’t like your attitude toward the world, she was there for you.” She mentioned an impromptu memorial at school her classmates started without adult guidance.
Before the vigil began, another girl nervously approached a TV crew asking when the story would air. She couldn’t contain her emotion as she introduced herself as Monet’s friend before walking away.
Later when she took the microphone, the girl spoke about the “best friend I could ever ask for,” she said. “Did you know she actually taught me how to skate,” she added, noting that she was afraid at first but that Monet had pushed and inspired her. “I love her so much,” she concluded.
Pausing to cry, Monet’s mom said she couldn’t put into words the joy she felt listening to the experiences. “I didn’t know the stories,” she said.
She then spoke about her "quirky" and loving daughter, who took school seriously and was always up for a debate with adults. She would “make you change your way of thinking,” Conchos said, noting she was just like her dad.
Family described Mark Garcia as a loving father. An owner of a carpet cleaning company and a server at the Bootlegger Italian Bistro, he put family above all.
Garcia’s nephew spoke about his supportive uncle, who was a go-to for advice, a sympathetic soul willing to lend a shoulder to cry on.
Garcia’s sister spoke about never believing the adage that “life is short” — until a motorcyclist killed her loved ones on Friday. Love them, hug them and kiss them, she told attendees about their loved ones.
An opening prayer mentioned the motorcyclist’s family members, how devastated they must be that he also was killed, and how they should be in the mourners’ thoughts. Reports identified the motorcyclist as Jonathan Smith, 28.
In an interview, Monet’s uncle, Christopher McNamara, spoke about a Metro Police officer who on Friday night responded to the fiery crash on Flamingo Road and Duneville Street and tried to save lives. He said he wished he knew the officer’s name to offer thanks.
Bouquets of flowers, stuffed animals and pictures of the father and daughter killed in the crash rested on a table.
One photograph captured the girl slicing through ice. In another, she posed in a figure-skating stance. In both, she smiled.
A third photo captured her thin arms wrapped around her father’s shoulders in a hug from behind, her smiling face resting next to his.
When the vigil concluded, four girls walked to the table. One muttered something, and another wiped the tears behind her glasses.
They each sobbed.