|Death: ||Apr. 16, 2011|
North Carolina, USA
By Mandy Locke, Lorenzo Perez and Andrew Kenney - Staff Writers
Cristina and Angeles Niño Álvarez came to North Carolina from Mexico a decade ago, a pair of sisters seeking a better life.
They found it in Raleigh. They and their husbands settled into a mobile home community off Capital Boulevard, shaded with pines. Each couple had two children, and they adopted a puppy.
On Saturday, the country that became the families' haven and their hope brought unspeakable disaster.
A tornado ripped through their neighborhood, snapping gangling pines that crashed through the mobile home where the children huddled. Three boys – Daniel, 9, Oswaldo, 8, and Kevin, 3, – died instantly. Six-month-old Yaire, cradled in her mother's arms during the storm, died Tuesday at the UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. Her organs will help another baby live.
On Wednesday, more than a thousand came to bid goodbye to the children at St. Raphael's Catholic Church in Raleigh. They streamed in for hours, filling every seat in the sanctuary and standing shoulder to shoulder in the vestibule. The mourners were every color and creed: teachers from the older boys' Brooks Elementary School, neighbors from Stony Brook Mobile Home Park, the fathers' fellow construction workers, cashiers and cooks from McDonald's.
The children's parents sat quietly as the priest spoke, staring at tiny coffins as others' babies fussed and squirmed. Moments before, they covered the caskets with beige blankets; the Niño sisters caressing the coverings before they buckled in tears against their husbands' embraces.
Outside, in the vestibule, mourners saw what the families had lost, a video scrapbook of happy, celebrated children.
Daniel and Oswaldo in Sponge Bob pajamas. Kevin swallowed by a life jacket on his way to a pool. Baby Yaire in fuzzy leopard print boots. Daniel blowing candles off his soccer-themed birthday cake.
Cristina and Angeles Niño left Mixquitio, a town in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí, a decade ago, said Carlos Flores Vizcarra, the consulate from Mexico assigned to the Carolinas.
The sisters found a new family in Raleigh.
Gaffney and Felicia Gunter, their son Gaffney Jr. and daughter Lisa McKenzie, owners of several Raleigh McDonalds, brought Cristina and Angeles into the fold of their family. The sisters climbed the ranks, working shifts at several of the Gunter's restaurants.
Cristina Niño had become assistant manager at a McDonald's on Trawick Road. Angeles worked at both a store on Wake Forest Road and another inside the Walmart on Old Wake Forest Road.
The sisters and their husbands raised the children together.
Cristina Niño was watching all four children Saturday while the other parents worked. She shepherded them into a closet to wait out the storm. A pine tree landed exactly where they huddled.
As the tornado dismantled their lives, it may also uproot their stay in America.
Angeles and husband Manual Coronado López now feel a tug back to Mexico. They want their children, Oswaldo and Kevin, buried there and may follow them, said Flores, the consulate. The Mexican government is paying to fly the boys' bodies and their parents home to Mexico. They will likely be unable to return.
Cristina Niño and her husband Juan Manuel Quistián Zapata want to bury their children, Daniel and Yaire, here and remain in the United States.
But, on Wednesday, the families focused on saying goodbye to their little ones and the life they'd created in Raleigh.
At the end of mass, men dressed in white hoisted the tiny caskets overhead and snaked through the thick crowd. The families trailed behind, nearly crushed by the weight of it all.
News researcher Peggy Neal contributed to this report.
To help the families:
The Gaffney Gunter family, owner of several McDonalds restaurants where Cristina and Angeles Niño worked, have set up a fund to help the families. Checks may be sent to Quistián & Coronado Memorial Fund, Fifth / Third Bank, Suite 100, 2501 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh, N.C. 27607.
Donations of clothing and food for all tornado victims are being collected at McDonalds' stores on 3026 Capital Blvd., 4413 Capital Blvd., 6250 Capital Blvd., and 5016 Spring Forest Road.
© Copyright 2011, The News & Observer Publishing Company
Kevin Coronado Nino, 3, passed away at home April 16, 2011. A funeral mass will be held at Saint Raphael Catholic Church, Raleigh, Wednesday, April 20 at 6pm. Please visit www.willifordfuneralhome.com to leave condolences.
Wed Apr 20 6pm Visitation and 7pm Funeral Mass for our parish children who died in the tornado. Presided by Bishop Burbidge and our priests. Donations for the families will be accepted after the service.
Specifically: Burial in Guanjuato, Mexico
Maintained by: Marilyn
Originally Created by: SSBJ💔
Record added: Apr 18, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 68563092