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Goodbye, Marisol Caceres

August 6th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon


I’ve been staring at the screen for days trying to write this and I don’t have any idea what to say. The newspapers have it easy here — they just have to report the facts about strangers. Writing a memorial for the twelve year old sister of a good friend, that’s hard.

When that little girl’s been murdered and the whole thing’s been all over the Washington Post already, it gets even harder.

The father of 12-year-old Marisol Caceres was arrested in her killing and jailed without bond yesterday as more grim details emerged about the girl’s strangulation Tuesday in her family’s Northeast Washington apartment.

I’m just putting this here for the strangers, and I really, really hope Jose and Marisol’s family understand that I’m only repeating this so that strangers understand the story. I’m going to let the Post do the heavy lifting here and just explain my angle …

I met Jose Andrade through the Youth Action Research Group (YARG) early in 2006. I interviewed Jose for this blog back in 2006, about a walkout he and YARG put together at his high school to support a just immigration reform.

Not only was he the most thoughtful, intelligent, precocious and wise 19-year-olds I’d ever met — he may have been one of the wisest human beings I’d ever met. Once he opened up to me a little, he was this busted fire hydrant of knowledge about philosophy, classical music, video games and maybe jazz, too. The only organ bigger than Jose’s mind is his heart. I remember a lot of late nights at our friend Danielle’s place, him telling me about growing up in Columbia Heights while I made us dinner. He was telling me about his apartment when he just trailed off and gaped at the burritos I was putting together.

“You just like, made that right here, man?” he asked. “Can you teach me how?”

I think that may have been one of the most fulfilling nights of my life. We saw each other a lot over the next year, talking about all kinds of stuff — his girlfriend, his dog, school, and his family. He loved his little sister so, so much.

From the Washington Post‘s article about Marisol’s memorial:

“She was open to new friendships and always creating new ones,” her family said in a statement. “She always found a way to make us laugh. She was the youngest of the family yet she was, in many ways, the oldest because of her demeanor. She lived her life vividly by visiting museums, taking up martial arts, and sharing new thoughts and interests.”

She liked soccer, too.

She always took very good care of her little nephew.

She loved her dog, Moe, and her pet birds.

She liked video games and movies.

She never hesitated to share her cosmetology techniques.

And she was always a princess on Halloween.

I never met Marisol, personally. I saw her waving to Jose from across the street, heard him talking about her a lot. It’s hard for me to memorialize someone I never knew directly. But I’ll say this: I saw her effect on Jose, and I could feel his love for her just pour out of him when he told me how smart she was, how kind and giving she was even as such a little girl. Jose and his family had it tougher than most of us can imagine for a very long time, and they had a lot of reasons to be cynical. But when they looked at Marisol they felt pure love and a tremendous, giddy hope.

Now Marisol’s gone, and I’m all the way up here in New York. I have no idea what else I can do. So I’m doing this:

Marisol’s family needs money now. They need it badly. Her mother does not receive generous bereavement benefits. Cell phone bills still need to be paid, laundry needs to be done, and people still need to eat. And above all else: they have to move as soon as possible. Imagine having to come home to that same apartment every night.

***UPDATE***According to my friend Danielle at YARG, the family has since found housing. This does not at all change their need for money, mind you, but they do at least have a new place to sleep and try to rebuild their lives.***
I’ve never asked for donations on here before, and it’s going to be a long, long time before I do it again. But this is really, really important, and every little bit helps. It’s so easy to spend money — five bucks to download the new Radiohead album, thirty bucks on dinner and drinks — and this is so much more important than pretty much anything we could spend money on. I’ve seen users on Reddit buy thousands of dollars worth of flowers for Helen Thomas, seen the Web bail a woman out of credit card debt and help a guy trade a paper clip up to a brand new house. Those are cute stories, and they say something important about the power of crowds and commerce online. But this is a grieving, devastated family that needs real help.

If you’re reading this at work, you can afford to double what you spent on lunch and drop it into the family’s Paypal account. If you’re reading this in a coffee shop, double your check and donate it. Don’t let me stop you from dropping in more, all I’m saying is that doesn’t need to be much — and please pass this on.

Link to this post if you want, or write me through the “Contact Us” page up there and I’ll send you the code for the donations button above. The Web’s an incredible, weird place that can really do some good. If you don’t do it for them, do it for me. And if you have a problem with me, fine, whatever, just please do your part to help this family out.

Jose’s family will be accepting donations through Darling Andrade’s (Jose’s sister) PayPal Account. We chose this method because it is safe, secure, and makes the funds be available to the family immediately. To make a donation, click this button:

Paypal online isn’t comfortable for everyone, and that’s fine. If you would prefer to make your donation in cash or by check — or just want to send a card to express condolences — mail to:

Attn: Jose Andrade
1419 V St NW
Washington, DC 20009

The family would also be grateful for donations of food. Please the executive director of YARG at if you are able to prepare food for Jose and his family. She’ll help you coordinate the best way to deliver food to the family, as they will be in different locations throughout the week. Meals are best if they require as little preparation as possible, i.e. meals that can just be reheated or eaten cold.

Jose left this in the comments, and it really sums it up for me:

My family is going through a very difficult time.. and has it becomes clear whose responsible for this hideous act.. strange feelings arise and we have to deal with them in a peaceful and intelligent ways.

Thanks so much for all your help, friends.

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