Victoria Arias’ reputation — of having a welcoming “aura,” and of sharing her talents as a mariachi — brought about 600 to a prayer service Wednesday evening at south-side San Miguel High School’s gymnasium.
On Monday morning, July 10, Arias, a healthy and strong 18-year-old lap swimmer, was found at the bottom of her family’s pool in southwest Tucson.
She had been swimming laps, as she did daily, but for reasons no one knows had apparently been underwater for at least 10 minutes, said Tracy Koslowski, a spokeswoman for Drexel Heights Fire District. Relatives did CPR until Drexel Heights paramedics arrived and continued the efforts, then took Arias to St. Mary’s Hospital. Her family remained at her side as she was in critical condition.
Arias had just graduated in May from San Miguel, a private Catholic and Lasallian college- and career-preparatory school. She was set to leave soon for St. Mary’s University of Minnesota in Winona, where she accepted a full-ride $250,000 scholarship to major in biochemistry.
The audience Wednesday night — including the school’s students and graduates, fellow members of Los Changuitos Feos, the prominent mariachi group Arias sang and played violin with, and community members — arrived to pray for her and her family.
They immediately received more dreadful news.
Msgr. Raúl Trevizo, pastor at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church where the Arias family are parishioners, announced that Arias died about 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Many gasped and held hands in disbelief. The prayer service transformed into a candlelight memorial service.
“This community that she belonged to for four years, the community of San Miguel where she was a youth leader … will pray for her and the consolation of her family,” said Trevizo.
“My Lord is my shepherd. There is nothing I shall want,” was a verse sung in the background. Arias’ smiling face in her red graduation gown was shown on a big screen. Some youths knelt on the gym floor during the emotional service. Trevizo blessed water in Arias’ memory and then dipped a white rose into the holy water and walked through the gym, blessing those in attendance.
He shared that on Sunday he saw Victoria at Mass and “her face was glowing. It was shining. It was illuminating. I felt happy.” Then, less than 24 hours later, she was found at the bottom of the pool.
Her faith tells us she is with Jesus Christ and seeing God “face to face and enjoying his friendship,” he said.
“Now we must be concerned about her parents and her sister and you young people filled with enthusiasm and life. We need to pray for you to have the courage to go on, continue with the gift of faith and your journey as we mourn, as we cry,” said Trevizo, speaking to the many teens with tears streaming down their faces.
Others in the community also mourned that Arias had been so close to embarking on her new life.
“Victoria exemplified what it means to be a San Miguel student,” said Dave Mason, president of the private school, in an interview before the service. “She was known for her singing and playing of the violin. She played volleyball and was a mentor to students,” said Mason.
“She embraced everybody and was social, receptive, open and a very caring individual. That is the reason why there is this outpouring for her in this tight-knit south-side community,” Mason said of the young woman he described as “displaying an aura, a spirituality and deep faith” that drew people to her.
Arias was the fourth person to drown this year in Pima County, which also had four near-drownings. “It is not your typical scenario where there is a glaring, preventable factor,” Koslowski said of Arias’ drowning.
The life Victoria and her parents had dreamed about has ended, Trevizo told the crowd, “for reasons we can never understand."