Eight-year-old Nicole Buffa shivered as she talked Saturday about how she and her friend Krystal used to pretend to be dancers and play with her dog. But Nicole said she wasn't shaking because of the cold.
"I'm just really sad," she said.
Her friend Krystal Dawn Steadman, a 9-year-old fourth-grader from Myers, Calif., died last March. Nicole joined Krystal's family and a throng of friends near Spooner Summit on Saturday as a third memorial was dedicated in her memory.
Nicole's puppy, Molly, is a pup from Krystal's dog. The last time Nicole saw Krystal was when she picked up Molly.
"She was really nice," Nicole said. "She was a nice, fun, popular girl who was fun to hang around and be with."
Nicole also said her friend was brave.
"Most of the time I saw her she was barefoot," she said. "That's why she's brave."
Though made up mostly of leather-clad bikers, the group was teary-eyed as Nicole lay flowers and toys at the base of the cross for her fallen friend. More tears flowed when biker "Mud Duck" read a poem mailed in by an individual who wanted to make an anonymous contribution to the memorial.
In part the poem read:
"Once the tears clear from my eyes
and don't obscure my view
I'll see exactly who you were
Perhaps I always knew
Once this empty space inside my soul
fills up again with love
I'll understand why you are gone
I'll somehow rise above"
Krystal's sister, Sonya Klempner, said though the holidays are hard for her family without Krystal, the support from the community brings warmth to their hearts and is appreciated.
"We live in such a beautiful place," she said.
A group of bikers stood guard at the memorial through Saturday night to protect it from vandals.
A painted redwood cross with its metal plaque was stolen in November. It replaced an informal memorial of toys and flowers piled around a small cross set up by Christopher Stevens of Incline Village. Klempner said her family thanks Stevens and all who have shown their support for her sister.
Nicole said she and her family now carry toys in the car in case they go by the memorial.
Nicole said she places a toy on the memorial each time she goes by "because I miss her."
The cross and other items were removed in October because of Nevada Department of Transportation concerns it was a hazard.
Members of the Reno chapter of the Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club and Legacy Motorcycle Club obtained donated material for the second memorial, built it and helped place it in cement several feet behind a highway guardrail. Two days later it was stolen.
The new memorial, a cross of two-welded train rails in a two-tiered concrete platform, was also constructed with donated labor and materials and is meant as a symbol of respect.
"She was just a little girl," said a biker who goes by the name Gypsy, "I'm here just to show respect, which a lot of people really don't do anymore. I'm kind of teary-eyed."
Thomas Robert Soria Sr. and his son Thomas Jr. are charged with Krystal's murder. The younger Soria pleaded guilty and is serving a life sentence without parole. His father is set to face a jury in January for his part. Prosecutors have sought the death penalty in the elder Soria's case.