Vanessa Carvalho/Brazil Photo Press/LatinContent/Getty Images
Chris Harris
May 22, 2017 03:52 PM

A heartrending letter, written by the grieving father of the 18-year-old Michigan woman killed last week by a motorist who allegedly sped down the sidewalk in the heart of New York’s Times Square, has appeared at a makeshift memorial at the very spot where his daughter lost her life.

“There [are] no words that can express our gratitude with the outpouring of love and support this city has shown us,” Thomas Elsman, the father of slain tourist Alyssa Elsman, wrote in the letter, which was framed and placed at the center of the memorial.

“Your condolences have been sincere and have been taken to heart.”

Elsman writes that talking to the people of New York in the wake of his daughter’s death has helped him to cope with the loss.

Alyssa Elsman/Facebook

“She loved Times Square,” he wrote. “She would appreciate all your kind words but she would also tell us all to get back up and continue.”

The letter ends: “I have a hole in my heart that can never be filled. My world changed when you came into it and it is unexplainable with you leaving it. I love you kid. Just no words. Love you, love you, love you.”

Authorities say Elsman was hit by a car in Times Square on Thursday along with nearly two dozen other pedestrians. Alyssa’s 13-year-old sister was also injured in the fatal incident, which occurred at about noon.

Minutes before her death, Elsman shared a picture of Times Square on her Instagram story. She also appeared to have visited before, posting a picture of herself at the intersection of 47th Street and Broadway in April 2016.

Elsman, a native of Southwest Michigan, died at the scene. Her sister’s condition is not known.

Police allege that Richard Rojas, a 26-year-old former member of the U.S. Navy, was the driver of the Honda Accord that killed Elsman. The Bronx man allegedly drove onto the sidewalk on the west side of Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street and then continued at a high speed to 45th Street, striking pedestrians before colliding with a metal barrier.

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Rojas also appeared “emotionally disturbed” in his statements to police officers, an New York Police Department source alleges.

According to the source, Rojas was allegedly under the influence of synthetic marijuana at the time of the crash, and he later “alluded to suicide by cop” and “the end of days” and said he’d experienced hallucinations.

A police spokesman confirms that, based on his statements to police and preliminary testing, Rojas was allegedly “under the influence of a substance other than alcohol, which he ingested by smoking.”

In addition to murder, Rojas faces five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and 20 counts of attempted murder, according to police.

He has not yet entered a plea. PEOPLE’s calls to his lawyer, Enrico Demarco, were not immediately returned.

Over the weekend, Rojas granted the New York Post an interview

“I just want to apologize to all the victims’ families … I want to apologize to my mom,” Rojas said, adding he was “shocked, confused, and hungry.”

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