All their lives, twins Marisol and Marisa Serrato, 17, were inseparable. Together they attended Norte Vista High School in Riverside, Calif., played guitar, sang at their church, even shared mattresses on their bedroom floor. “They didn’t do anything without the other,” says their brother Miguel. That included considering colleges, among them Humboldt State University, where Marisol was admitted and Marisa placed on the waiting list. When they were invited to participate in a program that would transport three busloads of Southern California students to the Humboldt campus up north in redwood country, “Marisa wasn’t going to go but wanted to be with her sister,” says Miguel. Assigned to different buses, they parted on April 10, expecting to reconnect on campus. Instead Marisa’s bus collided with a Federal Express truck, killing both drivers, three chaperones and five students, Marisa among them. “Marisol is so devastated,” says Miguel. “She doesn’t want to go to school now.”
As investigators probe why the truck made a deadly swerve that set the tragedy in motion, the students’ loved ones are suffering a grief compounded by the sting of lost hopes. Most of the teens had come from low-income homes, many the first in their families to be within reach of a college education. They had, says Timothy White, chancellor of the California State University system, “done all the right academic things” to realize that dream.
Most of the other 38 students on the bus are recovering from broken bones and burns. When Miles Hill, 18, saw the truck approaching, he pushed a new acquaintance, Desha Adams, to the floor, covered her with his body, then helped her and others escape by kicking out a window. “It warms my heart to know that I helped save people,” he says. The deaths remain vivid. His injuries may heal, but “psychologically,” he says, “I’m still probably not okay.”