Life Throws Some Hooks
Her words hung in the air. I should quit. She looked away from her father.
He was stunned. He didn’t know what to say, but he knew he had to say something — and fast. To him, “quit” was a four-letter word. So long as she was his daughter, Seniesa Carmen Estrada was not going to quit. She had put too much into boxing.
They both had. Boxing was as important to Joe Estrada, 44, as it was to Seniesa, who was 10. Her dream was his dream: that one day she would win a world championship. Besides, coaching her was helping him stay away from his gang, free of drugs and out of prison.
In his van, musty with sweaty shirts, worn-out gloves and moldy hand wraps, they rode through East L.A., past Lincoln Park, one of his hangouts during his gang days. He reminded her of that. Then past Central Juvenile Hall, where he had spent so many weeks he couldn’t count them. He reminded her of that too.Dad, she said,
it’s too hard.She trained at least two hours a day, five days a week. But not many girls boxed, so it was difficult to get fights. She faced other obstacles too. Her mother, divorced from her father, didn’t think much of girls boxing. Seniesa lived with her, so it was not easy. Even her father could be a problem. If he didn’t control his street instincts, stay off drugs and quit brawling, the cops would take him away. She would lose him.
Boxing was for their future, as much as to redeem his past.They drove into her neighborhood. He wrapped his hands tightly around the steering wheel. He worked to keep his cool, fearing she would tune him out if his voice rose. She slumped in the front seat, frowning. It was a long ride. Both would remember it well and the words they spoke. You have to keep fighting, he told her
. You have to, even if I have to drag you to the gym. You are going to be special, little mama.They pulled up in front of her mother’s apartment. She stayed in the van. He kept talking.
Of all of us in this family, you are going to make something of yourself. And I am going to keep you around me and keep you in this and show you the way. Show you not to make the mistakes I did. And that is going to make me feel like I have done something good. I did a lot of bad in my life, but that’s OK, because with you, I have helped make something good.He would not let her end up like her two brothers. One was a high school dropout, too familiar with the streets. Joe feared the other was not far behind. Both had been good at sports. Both had quit.
Seniesa, you can’t quit.He leaned over to hug her.
Already, she was feeling better. Yes, it was hard. Yes, her father was a problem, and he would become more of one in ways she couldn’t imagine. But she needed him to tell her that boxing was OK, that everything would turn out fine, that girls could fight.
He kissed her forehead.Tell me what you want to do, he said.
Do we stay with boxing?
Yeah, Dad. Yeah. We do.
Soon afterward, she wrote him a poem, misspelled here and there, to say thanks for being there. He tacked it to a wall in his bedroom, near his pillow. Each morning, it was one of the first things he saw.
Maybe it’s the way you make me luagh
Maybe it’s the way you push me in boxing when I feel like qiting
Maybe it’s the way you buy me things
Maybe it’s the way you hug and kiss me
Maybe it’s the way you tell me right from wrong
Maybe it’s the way you make me get good grades
Maybe it’s the way you make me go to school
Maybe it’s the way you support me
Maybe it’s the way you tell me what I am doing wrong in boxing
‘What If She Gets Hurt?’Too nervous to eat, Seniesa toyed with her omelet.
“Gabriel hits like a girl!” said Ronny Rivota, a gruff coach who trained the boys at her gym. “Hits like a woman. He’s a puss. Can’t hit. Can’t take no pain.”
The boy boxers, including Gabriel, were sitting with Seniesa around a table in a restaurant. The boys hooted and high-fived.
Seniesa stared toward the street. She was used to this. She tried to ignore them. They know I don’t hit like a girl, she would recall thinking. They know I’m tough. They know I fight as good as they do.
It was May 18, 2003, and we were in South El Monte, where she would box in a Junior Olympics tournament for girls and women. Finally, she was guaranteed a fight. Winning would be a big step toward the biggest tournament of the year, the Region VIII Silver Gloves Championships, a face-off among the best young fighters from California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado.
The boys had come to cheer her on. Confident as she was, her face was pale, and her right leg shook, trembling lightly against her father’s.
I asked for a prediction.
She looked away. “Dunno,” she shrugged, nervous about her prospects. “Don’t want to talk about it . Gimme a piece of paper.”
I tore a page from my notebook.
She took my pen. MAKE HER HURT, she scratched out quickly. MAKE HER CRY. MAKE HER NOT WANT TO FIGHT ME AGAIN.
Inside, the gym smelled soapy. It had been cleaned because the fights would be on local cable TV. Gauze and white tape encased Seniesa’s fists like little casts, and she wore shorts that drooped down her thin hips to her knees.
Her father paced, his gaze far off. He leaned toward her. “You OK, little mama?”
He kept close to her ear, whispering instructions: Counterpunch, box with skill instead of just slugging, be patient with this other girl.
Seniesa listened, but something was wrong. She was tense. She balled her fists and began to move her arms, flexing them out from her tight shoulders, slowly at first. Then she built momentum, loosening, skipping lightly on her toes. Finally, her fists whooshed through the air, and she threw a blur of jabs, hooks and rights in rhythm with her feet.
But when she stopped, her legs trembled, and she rubbed her eyes. I sensed that she was not feeling right.
“OK, OK,” she agreed, “I’m nervous. My mom . She usually doesn’t come.”
Joe thought it might be something more. Was she upset about the conversation at breakfast? “All that talk about Gabriel and the boys this morning, don’t let it bother you.”
She cocked her head, surprised that he misunderstood.
“All you gotta do is keep winning,” he said. “Vegas and turning pro, that can happen to you, little mama. Why not you? You can be like that. This is the school of hard knocks, though, baby. Just keep going and don’t worry. You can do it.”
She nodded, mouth closed, tossing punches, then swaying gently, side to side, shaking tension out of her arms. Finally, in the packed bleachers, she spied her mother. Seniesa walked toward her. They hugged.
If Seniesa was nervous, Maryann was more so. She had come to the tournament to applaud her daughter, but she sat stiffly, wringing her hands. She didn’t say much. When she did, her words rushed out frantically, so fast they were hard to understand. Maryann’s worry was one of the obstacles to Seniesa’s dreams. It could ambush anyone’s confidence. “You feeling OK Seniesa? Everything’s fine, right? Sure you’re OK?”
Seniesa nodded. She was fine. She walked away, straight toward the ring.
Maryann turned to me. “It’s what she wants, but I don’t feel too good about this,” she said. “What if she gets hurt? What if she gets a blood clot in her head? That can happen.”
In the ring, Seniesa could barely peer over the top rope. The crowd, about 150 people, applauded, but only politely. Earlier fights had featured teenagers close to becoming women. These were two little girls.
They greeted each other by touching gloves. I noticed that Seniesa’s opponent, Rosa Medel, had muscles. Her calves were thick. I saw biceps. She could bully Seniesa.
Seniesa waited in her corner and listened to Joe. Headgear covered much of her face, but I could see wary eyes. She looked worried, numb.
At the opening bell, Rosa took the fight to Seniesa, forcing herself upon her with left-right combinations.
Seniesa evaded, stood her ground. Then she countered, parrying like a bullfighter, thrusting back with jabs and hooks to Rosa’s head and gut.
In the second round, Seniesa’s replies began to sting. She steeled herself. Once, near my side of the ring, Rosa smacked her squarely in the face. Seniesa did not flinch.
On a stool behind her corner, Joe did.
Seniesa answered with rights and hooks, forcing Rosa backward. When Seniesa threw a right-handed punch, Joe threw one, shadow-boxing. When she threw a left, he threw a left.
Maryann sat in the crowd, biting her nails, looking down, putting a hand over her face.
By the third and final round, Seniesa was dictating the fight.
They might have been little girls, but now the crowd hungered for more, and cheers echoed through the gym.
Rosa dropped her hands as her energy drained.
Seizing the moment, Seniesa darted in, then out, like an angry bumblebee, slashing uppercuts and straight jabs to her unguarded chin, eyes and nose.
The bell clanged. The girls hugged. Twice. Seniesa spoke into her opponent’s ear: Good fight, good fight.
Judges tallied their points and declared Seniesa the winner. In the middle of the ring, she jumped into the air and raised her fist. Then she recovered, replacing a smile with a stone face: Of course she won, what did people expect?
She received a tall trophy. It stood almost as high as her waist. She lugged it with her as she walked to the bleachers, her father behind her. She held the trophy out for her mother to see.
Maryann gave it a quick once-over. Then came her questions: “Does your head hurt? Can you see me good? Did you get hit hard, baby?”
“I’m fine,” Seniesa said, looking at the trophy, then at her mother, then away.
If she had little patience for such questions, Joe had even less. He muttered, to no one in particular, that his little girl was never going to be hurt. “She’s too fast. Too skilled.”
As always, Seniesa was not satisfied until she had judged the fight for herself. One of the boys had taped it. She took his video camera and hurried away from both of her parents. Toward the back of the gym, she sat alone, on a metal chair, clutching the camera in her right hand. She examined her every move, every feint, every punch, looking for flaws.
Did she see any?
She shut off the camera and turned to me. “There was, like, a whole bunch of things I could’ve done better.” She paused, searching for the right words. “But it was good.”
Then she remembered what she had written on the page from my notebook.
“I don’t think she is gonna want to fight me again.”
Another Son and BrotherWithout warning, Seniesa’s problems grew beyond her mother’s fears. This time it was her father’s past, and it ambushed her truly and severely, in a way she could not have guessed. One evening before her victory, I walked into the Hollenbeck gym, and her head was down.
Joe took me aside.
“I have a surprise for you,” he said. He paused. “This is my son. This is Frank.”
I knew two sons. One was Joey, the other was Johnny. But Frank?
He was older, short and pudgy, with a wispy mustache. He wore baggy shorts and an old gray T-shirt. Joe had told me about two daughters, out there somewhere from his early days in Primera Flats, when the gang was more important than family. But he had never spoken of another son. There had been rumors that after Joe went to prison, one of his girlfriends delivered a baby boy. Joe never tried to find out.
Then, just the other day, he said, the truth had walked up.
Like Joe, his newly discovered son had been a junkie. Hoping to stay off the streets and away from drugs, he had tracked Joe down. He wanted his father to help him heal.
So it was that Seniesa discovered she had another brother.
In the gym, she ran laps around the basketball court, in a pack with the boy boxers. But she ran slowly, her head bowed, her feet taking small, shuffling steps. When she passed her father, she stole a glance up at him.
He was standing next to Frank, near the ring.
“I am going to be there for you, mijo,” Joe was saying. “You are going to be my son.”
Days passed. Seniesa was tense. One day, the boy boxers were sparring a few feet away. She ignored them. She positioned herself straight ahead, to make it appear that she was staring toward a fierce game unfolding on the basketball court.
But I could tell she was not watching basketball. Her eyes darted toward Joe. She could not hear what he was saying, but the more she stared, the more tense she grew. Her mouth puckered slightly. Her face tightened, as if she were trying to solve a difficult puzzle, trying to figure out what this was going to be like.
Frank was determined to know Joe. The best way, he thought, was to become what Seniesa was: a boxer.
Soon, Seniesa got less of her father’s attention. She watched as he cradled Frank’s hands and wrapped them gently in gauze and tape. From outside the ropes, she watched as her father stepped inside with Frank. She watched as her father taught Frank how to wear his headgear, how to glide across the ring. She watched as her father put on the heavy mitts and held them out as Frank plodded toward them, trying out jabs and hooks for the first time.
Frank eased next to Seniesa whenever he could. He called her his sister, although the boy boxers had to remind him how to pronounce her name.
He asked her for boxing tips.
Although he was getting in the way, she obliged, teaching him what she knew.
But something was amiss.
One evening, Frank joined Seniesa, their father and the other boxers to watch TV at a friend’s house. The boys teased Frank because he had shaved his head to stay cool in the ring. They saw an Oscar De La Hoya fight. Joe sat on a beige couch, and Frank took Seniesa’s usual spot next to him. His left leg nudged against her father. When Joe spoke, Frank gazed at him, mesmerized.
Seniesa stayed on the floor.
“Look at Oscar, how smart he is, mama. How he measures his guy,” Joe said to Seniesa. “This is how to do it, mama. He hasn’t even been hit yet.”
Seniesa barely nodded.
I’d never seen her respond to her father this way.
Frank and Joe hollered encouragement at the TV, but she slunk into the kitchen and stayed there, slouching, cradling her face in the palm of her hand, eating sausage pizza and slurping a Coke. Often, I saw her glance into the den at Joe and Frank.
In time, however, Joe’s relationship with Frank began to fray. Busy for several weeks with new work at the sign shop, Joe had little time for boxing.
One afternoon, I ended up driving Frank home from the gym. He sulked, complaining that Joe was avoiding him. Frank had a girlfriend and a baby and no job. He wanted financial help. If he didn’t get it from Joe, he said, he would go back to selling drugs.
A few days later, I found Seniesa at the gym, just outside the ring. “What’s up?” she said, nodding at me. She extended a hand. We slapped palms and knocked knuckles, a standard East L.A. greeting.
She bounced on her toes, more cheerful than she’d been in weeks.
“Seen Frank lately?” I asked.
“Nope,” she said, with a hint of satisfaction.
That evening, near midnight, Frank called my cellphone, voice cracking, speaking through tears. He was convinced that Joe was avoiding him, and now was when he needed his father the most.
“I wish I never met him,” he said. “He’s distancing himself from me. I can feel it. I opened up to him, found him, found out he was real. And look what happened. My dad talks a good game. He tells me if I need money to call him and he will help. I need money now, and he is not there.” I could hear him sobbing. “He is too busy for me. He is with Seniesa, probably . He has his little girl, she makes him proud.”
I went to bed thinking of Seniesa, her father and the rest of her family. I wondered about Joe, laboring to put the past behind him, working to prove his goodness. He lived like a monk, in a room at his mother’s house. It was a simple life meant to decrease distraction. Distraction could cause him to lose balance, loss of balance could lead to old habits, and old habits could lead to prison. Joe had his job, a TV and Seniesa’s poem. He had Seniesa and her boxing.
It was Frank or Seniesa. Room did not exist for both.
A Respite From BoxingSeniesa liked to go to her classroom when it was empty and sit down with her teacher and talk. Occasionally it was about the obstacles to her dreams. Now she was less worried about Frank than she was about the rest of her family.
Her other brothers, for instance. Joey was 19, thin and tough. He helped Joe at the shop, but at night he hung out on the streets. Johnny was 15, rangy and shy. He also was spending time on the streets, failing school because he hardly went. Maryann worried so much she couldn’t sleep, imagining the worst, her heart pounding as she closed her eyes and saw them both being killed.
When darkness fell on the streets of El Sereno, which echoed often with gunfire, Seniesa would demand that she and her mother drive through the neighborhood, looking for the boys. She wanted to pick them up and bring them home to safety. “I told you, Mom, he’s not going to class,” she said one evening, as Maryann spoke of Johnny’s grades. “He’s getting straight Ds. He’s being so stupid. Mom, what are you going to do?”
For Seniesa, the talks with her teacher at El Sereno Elementary School offered a respite from her family, even from boxing. When I visited her classroom, I saw a charming teacher’s pet, carefree, eager to please, the most popular girl in her class, the best actress in the school play, a top student who did what she was told.
Her teacher was impressed with how Seniesa went out of her way to befriend a kid the others picked on and was captivated by how she drove herself. She thought Seniesa would be the first in her family to graduate from college. “I will be shocked if she does not make something special out of her life,” she said.
Seniesa surrounded herself with other girls. They walked to the playground, joking about who was taller, smaller, who had the cutest jeans and the coolest shoes. They were careful not to talk about boys. “We’re B-F-F,” Seniesa said, one arm around Victoria, lanky with long brown hair. She pointed to her own notebook. I saw BFF scrawled in large blue letters on the cover and a list of girls’ names below it. “B-F-F. Don’t you know what that means? Best Friends Forever.” Her eyes sparkled as she laughed. “That’s us. B-F-F.”
One day, Maryann sat with me in her living room and talked about her children and their prospects, her eyes darting, as they always did when she was stressed.
“I can’t worry about Seniesa right now,” she said. “It’s sort of like Joe and Seniesa are one side of it. And then there’s me and the two boys. I don’t let anyone talk bad about my boys. And Seniesa, if I say anything bad about Joe, she is all, ‘Don’t you say anything bad about my dad.’ Those two, you can’t tear them apart for nothing.”
Seniesa walked in and sat next to her mother.
“NeeNee,” Maryann said, “why don’t you stay home today? Stay home, and let’s go to Starbucks. What do you think?”
“I’m supposed to be with my dad,” Seniesa replied, unimpressed with the offer, even if Starbucks was one of her favorite places. She heard a horn. She looked through the shutters. She saw Joe, pulling his van into the driveway. Without a word, she rose from the couch and bolted out the door, smiling as she skipped down the sloping driveway in her white high-tops. Joe leaned through the driver’s window and kissed his daughter on the forehead. She reached up to him, grinning, clasping his shoulders with her small hands.
Maryann peered through the blinds at them. “He spoils her,” she said, shaking her head. “All she ever wants is to be around her father. Maybe she does think she is saving him. Look at that.”
Pushed to the EdgeIt was a rest day, and Seniesa was at home when it happened. Her neighborhood could mount sneak attacks too. Joe was at the gym with the boy boxers. We stood together, laughing, catching up. He bragged about Seniesa.
Suddenly, a commotion flared on the basketball court.
“What you gonna do now, mother------?” It was a street tough named Johnny, shouting at Marlon, a strapping boy in his late teens who had dropped out of training but still hung around the ring. Johnny wore baggy jeans and a muscle T-shirt. He bore down on Marlon with a stiff-legged strut.
Marlon backpedaled, unsure what to do.
Johnny pushed him.
Joe’s eyes narrowed and grew dark.
I looked at Johnny’s baggy jeans. Did he have a gun in his pocket? Was there a place to dive for cover?
Johnny pushed Marlon again and yelled at him about a girl.
Joe boiled. “Marlon, don’t take nothing from him!” he shouted. “Don’t let him punk you like that.”
Marlon backed away, showing weakness. Joe knew that showing weakness was a way to end up dead. “Hit him back!” he yelled. “Hit him back!”
The gym fell silent.
Johnny kept pushing.
Marlon kept walking backward.
Joe shook his head. He handed me his cellphone. “This is wrong,” he muttered. A metal railing stood between us and the action. He gripped it hard, as if he were about to jump over.
But something held him back.
“Straight right, Marlon! Don’t take nothing from him!” he shouted. “You know what to do, boy. Don’t take that s---.”
Marlon stopped retreating. He cocked a fist and released a perfect right. It landed flush on Johnny’s jaw, sending him to the floor like a dropped rock.
“Yeah, that’s the way, baby!” Joe yelled. “Don’t take s--- from nobody! NO-BAH-DEE!”
But Johnny rose. He looked at Joe and me. He banged a fist to his chest and pointed at Joe. “F--- you, mother------!” he yelled, walking toward us.
My legs tensed. If he pulled a gun, I was ready to run.
Joe would not back away. “Shut the f--- up,” he shouted, “and leave the kid alone!”
Johnny kept walking, straight toward us.
“You don’t want to mess with me, homes,” Joe said.
Johnny kept walking. He picked up a metal chair.
“I ain’t taking your s---,” Joe said. “I’m ready to rumble, dog.”
Johnny flung the chair. It twisted toward us. I ducked, and it crashed down against Joe’s back, ripping his shirt, tearing his skin.
“Bitch!” Joe shouted.
Johnny grabbed a broom and broke it in half over his leg. Long splinters of wood protruded from one end.
Joe picked up a dustpan with a wooden handle. He slammed it hard against the railing and snapped off the pan. Now he had a sharp stick of his own.
He and Johnny squared off, circling each other.
Joe hunched slightly, bent his legs and wielded his stick. I saw up close that he was about to lose control, about to swing and slash until only one of them stood. Joe was almost in “the zone.”
But he stopped. He was thinking of Seniesa, he told me afterward. What if he hurt this kid, got arrested and convicted? One more felony and he could get 25 years. He would lose Seniesa and their dream.
Joe threw his stick to the ground.
Johnny lunged at him, raking him with the broom handle.
They grappled, chest to chest, legs trembling.
Joe grimaced, working to hold Johnny’s right hand, which gripped the stick.
Johnny broke free and slammed Joe over the head, so hard that a large chunk of the stick broke off.
Joe clutched him again, this time in a headlock.
They turned and twirled. Sweat ran down Joe’s chest. I could hear him gasp. Johnny freed his stick hand and stabbed. Blood flowed from Joe’s arms. I saw more on his chin. “Is that all you got?” Joe growled. “Mother------, is that all you got, punk?”
It took several large men to break it up. They yelled: “Cops coming!” Johnny broke free and fled, swinging his stick and stabbing another man. Blood streamed from the man’s forehead.
“Kurt, we gotta go,” Joe said, walking fast to his van. Both of us knew Johnny might bring back a gang and try anything, maybe spray the place with bullets.
The boy boxers piled in. “Go, Joe, let’s go. Come on, let’s go.”
Joe started the engine.
“I gotta get the kids outta here,” he told me. “And you’d better get outta here. You OK? We’ll talk about this later.”
That night, we spoke on the phone.
He was contrite: “I shouldn’t have fought that kid. I really shouldn’t have.”
He was reflective: “My worst quality is my anger. Always has been. You saw it. I couldn’t keep away from that, seeing Marlon get punked. I couldn’t let it go . I had to keep control of him and myself, as mad as I was. I was about this close to going into one of those where I used to go into, where I blanked out and just went off.”
Then he turned defiant: “That guy doesn’t know who he is messing with. I don’t gangbang anymore, but I’m from Flats gang. I got pull. All I gotta do is make one call, and we will go after that guy. I can put him in his place with one call.”
He was thankful that his little girl had not been there. “Oh, man, I’m just so glad she had the day off. She would’ve been scared. And you know, I don’t want her to see me like that anymore.”
Joe did not tell Seniesa about the brawl.
She found out about it the next day from a boy boxer. She told me it didn’t scare her. She betrayed no emotion at all. If anything, she felt pride. “That was kind of cool, how my dad backed up Marlon.”
Seniesa seemed unburdened by the idea that anything bad could ever happen to her father. Maybe it was the dream they shared and her role in his redemption. Still, she was aware of the risks, what her father’s anger could lead to.
One day, not long afterward, I asked if she knew her father could go back to prison if he ever got in trouble again — and for a long time.
She looked at me. “I know,” she said. “But it’s not going to happen.”
Notes on Chapter Three
Joe is stunned by Seniesa’s suggestion that she quit: From Seniesa and Joe in interviews in July and August of 2004 and in May 2005.
The van ride: From interviews with Joe and Seniesa in July and August 2004 and in May 2005. Their thoughts and words are as they recall them. The signs of Joe’s stress and his fears that Seniesa would tune him out come from Joe. Her responses and her feelings are from Seniesa.
The poem Seniesa wrote for her father: Joe showed it to Streeter.
Seniesa hears the boy boxers joke about hitting like a girl: Witnessed by Streeter at their breakfast in May 2003 at Tom’s Burger No. 8 in South El Monte. What Seniesa thinks during the joking is from Seniesa. Her thoughts are as she remembers them.
Seniesa’s prediction: In response to questions from Streeter.
Scene at the Junior Olympics tournament, including Seniesa’s dialogue with her father: Witnessed by Streeter at the South El Monte Community Center. He observed the signs of her nervousness. The words spoken are as Streeter heard them.
Seniesa’s meeting with her mother: Observed by Streeter, who heard Maryann’s words, watched Seniesa’s reaction and noted Maryann’s response.
Match between Seniesa and Rosa Medel: Observed by Streeter from ringside; he also observed Joe’s and Maryann’s reactions to the blows. Her words are as he heard them.
Seniesa’s display of her trophy to her mother: Witnessed by Streeter, who saw Maryann’s reaction and heard the brief words between Seniesa and her mother. He also heard Joe’s response.
Seniesa studies a video of her Rosa Medel fight: Observed by Streeter, who asked for her critique. Her words are as he heard them.
Joe introduces his newly discovered son: From Streeter’s visit to the Hollenbeck gym in May 2003. Information about Frank is from interviews with Joe and Frank. Joe’s words to Frank are as Streeter heard them.
Seniesa’s reaction when she learns about Frank: Witnessed by Streeter. Her reactions to Joe’s developing relationship with Frank are from Streeter’s subsequent visits to the gym. Frank’s intention to learn boxing as a way to get close to his father is from Frank. Joe’s efforts to teach Frank to box were observed by Streeter, as were Seniesa’s responses to what she saw and heard.
Scenes in which Frank displaces Seniesa: Witnessed by Streeter, who observed Seniesa, Frank and their father watching the De La Hoya fight. Joe’s words to Seniesa were heard by Streeter, who witnessed Seniesa’s reaction.
Joe’s relationship with Frank comes apart: Witnessed by Streeter, who interviewed Frank while driving him home on several occasions during May and June 2003 and spoke to him on the phone. Streeter also interviewed Seniesa and observed her reactions.
Seniesa’s closeness to her teacher: From interviews with Seniesa and Gwen Raya, who taught Seniesa’s fifth-grade class during 2002 and 2003 at El Sereno Elementary School. Corroborated by Streeter’s observations at the school.
Worries about Joey and Johnny: From interviews with Seniesa and Maryann during June, July and August of 2003 and April and May of 2004. Maryann’s fears and sleepless nights are from Maryann. Seniesa’s conversation with Maryann about her brother’s grades was observed by Times photographer Anne Cusack, who heard the words spoken. Streeter heard similar comments on several occasions and observed Seniesa and Maryann leaving their house one evening at about midnight to search for the boys.
Scenes of Seniesa at school: Witnessed by Streeter, who heard the words spoken by Seniesa and her classmates. Teacher Gwen Raya’s impressions of Seniesa are from interviews with Streeter.
Seniesa turns down Starbucks to be with her father: Observed by Streeter. He was present during the conversation between Seniesa and her mother. Words spoken by Seniesa and Maryann are as he heard them.
Brawl at the Hollenbeck gym: Observed by Streeter. The words spoken by Joe, Marlon, Johnny and others involved in the turmoil are as Streeter heard them.
Joe’s angry but reflective reaction: From a late-night telephone interview with Streeter after the brawl.
Seniesa’s response to the brawl: Witnessed by Streeter, who interviewed her.
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