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Local

Tears and laughter, 2 years later

Balloon launch marks anniversary of teens' death; Saturday ride scheduled

STERLING – Family and friends gathered Thursday to remember the lives of two Sterling teenagers who died 2 years ago.

A motorcycle parked along East LeFevre Road, between Challand Middle and Jefferson Elementary schools, was playing Nirvana's "In Bloom," as nearly 100 people gathered with balloons and memorial T-shirts to mark the anniversary of the deaths of best friends Hannah Kendall and Jade Garza.

The 14-year-old Sterling girls were killed July 25, 2011, when they were electrocuted in rural Tampico while detasseling on a farm and working for Monsanto Corp.

"It lifts your spirits," Hannah's mom, Mary Kendall, said while holding several balloons, including a Sweet 16 balloon. "It makes me happy to know that this many people still care after 2 years."

A memorial ride is planned for 5:30 p.m. Saturday, starting at Champs Sports Bar and Grill, 216 Locust St. Participants will make a few stops on the way to both burial sites before returning to Champs, where Knuckle Deep will play some Nirvana and 3OH!3 songs, which were among the girls' favorites.

All vehicles are welcome; there is no charge to take part. The gathering will begin at 4:30 p.m., and Champs will have $5 burger baskets available.

"I can't begin to tell you guys how much it means to us that you're here," Mike Knapp, Jade Garza's stepfather, said to the crowd before counting down the balloon launch.

As the balloons were let go, there were cheers and people shouted, "We love you."

Then, as they stood and watched the balloons float away, there were laughs and tears.

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