NATOMAS, Calif. (KTXL) — Teachers at Bannon Creek School in Natomas are mourning the deaths of the girls killed at The Church in Sacramento.
Third-grade teacher Jennifer Souza remembers the Mora-Gutierrez sisters, Samia, Samantha and Samarah, as loving girls who were dedicated to each other and their school.
Souza told FOX40 the girls spent many years studying, making friends and growing close with their teachers.
“These girls were such bright shining lights. They were lovely children,” Souza said.
For years, Souza helped them with English and after-school studies at their school in Natomas.
“The flaming red hair of Samia. And Samantha, and all three of them had freckles,” Souza recalled.
Teachers took them under their wings and helped with extra tutoring.
“And they loved teachers,” Souza explained. “They came to school early. They stayed after school. They asked to eat lunch with us. They would do anything to be with teachers and connecting.”
Souza said Sam wanted to become a veterinarian while Samara aspired to be YouTuber.
“It’s devastating to have known their hopes and dreams and know all the love they had for education and learning. They made coming to school worth it for many teachers,” Souza said.
Souza said, despite limited English, the girls’ mom was very supportive and involved with their schooling and instilled working hard to become successful in the U.S.
“She was very dedicated to them and their education. They were very loved and they loved her,” Souza said.
She said, even during the pandemic, the girls stayed connected with school, but it was also during that time that things changed for them.
“They were happy. We were literally in their bedrooms with them for a school year,” Souza recalled. “And then about a year ago, something changed, and they were reticent to put their cameras on and they were in a different location. And mom told them they had to flee suddenly.”
But Souza said the girls remained dedicated to their schoolwork.
“They showed up positive and happy and hardworking and committed. And I think one of the things that kept us going the most was we knew mom was behind them and we were all in partnership together,” Souza said.
Souza said it is difficult to accept what happened.
“I think the hardest thing now is talking about them in the past tense because really, they live on for me as a student who was loved. And I know that they loved me as the teacher,” Souza said. “I feel very pulled to make sure that they’re not forgotten.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help with funeral expenses.