By Danyelle Roquemore
Alex Vazquez’s smile could light up a room. His friends found him funny, even a little goofy at times.
His professors at Eastfield were impressed with the 18-year-old’s work ethic, believing it would carry him far in life.
On March 13, the college community was rocked by the news that Alex, his 21-year-old sister Paulina and their parents had been killed in an apparent triple murder-suicide at their home on Paintbrush Street in Mesquite. Police believe their mother, Angelica Vazquez, shot the children and her husband before committing suicide.
“It’s weird how [things like this happen to] people who are doing everything right in life,” said Eastfield student Holly Hester, a friend of Alex’s since they were freshmen at Mesquite High School. “It doesn’t seem fair.”
The teens’ impact on the community was evident at a candlelight vigil for the family on March 13, when more than 100 flames lit up the night at Barnes Bridge. The vigil was organized by Alex’s best friend, Zab Estrada.
“He had so many friends,” Hester said. “No one could say anything bad about him because he was so nice. If someone would have taken the time to get to know him, they would have wanted to be his friend.”
News of the shooting spread throughout the campus on March 14, leaving students and faculty shocked.
Speech professor Courtney Brazile, who taught both Alex and Paulina, struggled to process the news that afternoon.
“Looking back on it, I’ve never seen anything that would make me think that there were any personal issues going on,” Brazile said. “They seemed like two normal college students.”
The news was even more difficult to understand for Alex’s close friends.
“I started crying for over an hour and couldn’t stop,” Hester said. “I was going through pictures, and it was making it worse. I didn’t believe it. It was crazy.”
Alex was in his second semester at Eastfield. Paulina also attended Eastfield before transferring to UNT. She was home for Spring Break at the time of the shooting.
Brazile said the siblings were both exceptional students.
“If there was one student I knew I was going to see every day, it was Alex,” he said. “Although he wasn’t one that had a lot to say, his commitment to being on time communicated a lot about him and how much he cared about his education and his future.”
President Jean Conway sent out a campus-wide email on March 15 stating that the college was grieving over the deaths of the siblings.
“They both had many friends at Eastfield,” she said. “This tragic event reminds us once again of the fragility of life and the importance of holding our family and friends close.”
Away from school, Hester said Alex was generous and would do anything for his friends.
“He was positive all the time and was always happy,” she said. “When he came in the room, you would get in a good mood. He was so funny and his smile was contagious. Even his laugh made me laugh because it was so goofy.”
She said Alex’s friends still tweet at him on Twitter and tag him in w posts.
“I still tweet at him sometimes [saying things like] ‘I miss you,’” Hester said.
Alex spent much of his free time with the Impulse Car Club. Members of the club attended the candlelight vigil and posted a statement on their Facebook page about the tragedy:
“Today we lost a friend, but not just a friend. [Alex] was family of Impulse, a brother to everyone. But not just him; his sister, mom and dad also. Thanks to everybody who went to the candlelight ceremony and showed love and support. This has been a big tragedy to everyone. Now they are in a better place. R.I.P., Vazquez family. Gone but never forgotten.”
Friends and family members have had a difficult time accepting the police’s finding that the teens’ mother was responsible for the shootings. The motive is still undetermined.
Hester said she didn’t appreciate the negative comments about Angelica Vazquez that have been posted on many news websites.
“They shouldn’t look at it that way,” Hester said. “[They’re] never going to know [the reason] why.”
Just as loved ones mourn the loss of the Vazquez family, Brazile is saddened that his students’ lives were cut short.
“I’m very glad I was able to have both of these students,” he said. “They were both really good students with a bright future.”
Brazile said he hopes others can learn from Alex’s approach to life.
“His life has been a glowing, public statement,” he said. “We really do see through moments like these that life truly is short, but in his short life of 18 years, I believe that he has made an impact.”