By Samantha Bartholomew
Every seat in the auditorium was filled.
The curtains were drawn, the lights shining dimly across the stage.
But the building that was usually bursting with joy and laughter was silent.
After a lifetime spent on stage, it’s only fitting that the life of Angie Gomez be celebrated and mourned in a theatre.
“I’m trying to keep my composure, but it’s kind of tough when you lose your baby,” Steve Gomez, Gomez’s father, said. “I’ll never forget that phone call we got Sunday night. It changed our world … and we are still trying to grasp how to change it back.”
A lover of country music, Gomez and 57 other people were killed while attending Route 91 Harvest, a country music festival that Gomez and her boyfriend, Ethan Sanchez, had been planning to attend for 10 months.
“The last few days she had on earth, she loved it,” Sanchez said. “Every single minute of it. From Friday to Sunday.”
In the immediate aftermath of Gomez’s death, Steve Gomez asked their family to describe Angie in one-word. The words the family used to describe their loved one were ones that displayed the depth of Gomez’s loss in the tight-knit family.
The youngest of five children, Gomez was described by her family as the “link that kept them all in place.”
“I don’t want to believe that losing her really happened,” Gomez’s uncle, Paul Lujan, said, “But I know that it has and I may never understand why.”
Julie Gomez talked about her daughter’s passion to entertain, recounting a story about her daughter learning at a young age that if she made funny faces, the people around her would laugh.
“She just kept doing it and they kept laughing,” Gomez said. “People asked if she liked to be the center of the room and I would say, ‘It’s not for any personal reason of her own, for wanting the attention, she just loved making people laugh.”
Gomez took her love of entertainment to the talents of the Riverside Children’s Theatre and spent her childhood doing what she loved, going on to work as a tech after graduating from the program.
“She didn’t do it for accolades, she just did it for the simple joy of entertaining other people,” her mother said.
“We’re going to honor her life every single day, for the rest of ours … You touched her life, and she touched yours,” she ended, “Thank you all.”
Gomez loved the stage and participated in choir and theatre events as a student at Riverside Polytechnic High School, where she graduated in 2015. She was a “fun-loving, sweet young lady with a great sense of humor,” the Riverside Unified School District said in a statement. “It is with deepest sadness and absolute shock that we mourn the loss of Poly Cheer Alumni, Angela Gomez,” the high school said in a statement.
“Angie was a member of the Class of 2015. She was a cheerful young lady with a warm heart and loving spirit. Angie’s life was cut short when she succumbed to injuries sustained in the Las Vegas Route 91 shooting. This senseless act of violence has rocked our Poly Cheer and Song family.”
According to RUSD, Gomez took on a challenging course load during her time at Poly, attending honors and AP classes, doing so with a constant smile on her face.
Her English teacher and cheer coach Lupe Avila said the school was “deeply saddened by the loss of a wonderful young woman who had her whole life ahead of her.”
In the aftermath of Gomez’s death, Avila started a GoFundMe entitled the “Angie Gomez Memorial Fund,” a fundraiser to assist her family in making burial arrangements and taking care of all the needs they may have in the days and weeks to come.
As of Oct. 18, donors have given $81,890, surpassing the original goal of $10,000.
After graduating from Poly High School, Gomez went on to RCC where she studied and received her nursing assistant certificate and was waiting to get into the nursing program, so that she could accomplish her goal of becoming a licensed vocational nurse and to later earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
“She was one of us,” college president Wolde-ab Isaac said. “When we remember her, we should always look to the heavens because that it where we will find her watching over us.”
“Angela has so many friends who just love and adore her,” Gomez’s mother said.
“My heart is in shambles and none of this feels real,” Veronika Maldonado , a friend of Gomez, said. “Eight years of friendship and we had so much more to go.”
“We were always a team regardless if everything going on in each other’s lives, we never stopped talking, every time we met again it was just like we saw each other yesterday,” Melissa Cervantes, a friend of Gomez, said. “We were always a team.”
Throughout the vigil, the Gomez family also passed on their love to Ethan Sanchez, Gomez’s boyfriend of five years.
“She was not a news story. She was not a cheerleader. She was an aunt, she was a daughter, she was a sister, she was my life,” Sanchez told the somber crowd.
He said Gomez had told him when someone passes they die three times: when their heart stops beating, when they are buried and when the last person who has a memory of them passes away.
“Please, please, please remember who she was, and pass those memories on; please tell funny stories about her, please tell … who she was, because she was not just a news story.”
Gomez was laid to rest at a funeral service held for her Oct. 17 at Harvest Christian Fellowship Church from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. with over 300 people in attendance.