By Sam Adams
Purple bouquets fill the corner of Sunset and Cliffwood; scrawled messages of love and loss cover nearly every inch of space on trees and lampposts alike; candles in honor of Julia Siegler â14 that had once illuminated the vigil on the night of her death on Feb. 26 now sit extinguished.
Siegler was crossing the street to catch the morning school bus when two cars turning right onto Sunset Boulevard struck her. She died soon after arriving at UCLA Medical Center. Police have ruled the incident a “tragic accident,” and neither driver, one of whom is a student at Palisades Charter High School, is being prosecuted.
In a memorial service at the Middle School on March 5, students and teachers remembered Siegler as a girl who practically “smiled in her sleep.” Teachers recalled her habit of “filling classrooms with color, humor, and joy,” and friends mourned the loss of the “unprecedented fire and animation of an amazing girl.” Speakers gathered in Bing Auditorium celebrated her love of dance and of life.
“So many moments where we seemed to cry on cue, and then pull ourselves together and be part of the next thing,” mother Jody Siegler said. “That was really a turning point for us, and we really had something to look forward to as we tried to measure the days and get past the days at the early, beginning days of the shock.”
The memorial began with an invocation by chaplains Father J. Young and Rabbi Emily Feigenson.
Her seventh grade civics teacher Stephen Chan described a girl who was passionate about history and had an uncanny ability to turn mundane topics into thoughtful, interesting reports, for example about the early 20th century painter Mary Cassatt, Chan said, “a lady who only painted babies.”
“She was a diligent student and a social butterfly who put her whole heart into everything that she did,” Chan said. “And she really cared, about everything and everyone. Thatâs what I think Iâll remember most about JuliaÂ â she had spirit, and she let it soar to such great heights.”
Both Chan and her history teacher Timothy Newhart said that before classes, they had to do two preparations: one for the class and one for Julia.
Sieglerâs Latin teacher, Moss Pike, echoed sentiments Sieglerâs vivacity and passion for learning, quoting the Greek philosopher Epicurus to describe the sense of unity in grief of the school community: “It is not so much our friendsâ help that helps us, as the confident knowledge that they will help us.”
Next, five of Sieglerâs closest friends and classmates spoke.
Shana Haddad â14 remembered her wide vocabulary and described her as a “walking dictionary” who had a “magical way that she made even a simple sentence sound.”
“Julia was extraordinary at making every minute count,” Haddad said. “She was the shining example of someone who reached out and took every opportunity in life to participate with all of her heart.”
Sieglerâs perpetual optimism was a running theme through the speeches.
“Her smile told it all,” Haddad said. “It was luminous, and I know she wouldâve been very proud of me for using that word. It said, âI am happy to see you, I am thrilled to be here,â at school, at dance, at a party, or just hanging out.”
But along with the celebration of her life came anguish and anger over her death.
“There are no scientists that can find a meaning, no poets that can express our sorrow, no doctors that can heal our broken hearts,” Emily Segal â14 said.
“Julia was not ready to go,” Brooks Hudgins â14 said. “She had her whole life in front of her, and her place was here, her time was now, and this was her world.”
“I know that from now on all those whom sheâs inspired throughout her time so mercilessly cut short will love each other a little bit more, will enjoy everything a little bit more, and will appreciate the uncertainty of our duration on this fantastic planet a little bit more,” Hudgins concluded.
Jason Park â14 preformed an original song in honor of Siegler. The Dance Production class choreographed a dance for the assembly.
Sieglerâs parents thanked the audience for the kind words and support. Scott Siegler, Juliaâs father, concluded the assembly with a reminder to “dance so long and so hard that no one can tell the dancer from the dance.”
Her friends have placed signs around Brentwood reading “Slow Down for Julia,” encouraging more cautious driving and a more leisurely path through life.
Sieglerâs mother thanked the school for support in the crisis and for giving Julia with an outlet for her joy of life.
“Her report card was filled with comments about how happy she was, and how fun she was in class, and she enjoyed it,” Jody Siegler said. “She made use of it. She just didnât take stuff for granted. She had a lot of love in her, and she poured it into everything.”