SELMA — The community came together for a candlelight vigil to honor the lives of Manjit Singh and Samantha Cruz-Pedro on Friday night.
The families of Singh and Cruz-Pedro grieved together as people left candles and flowers by a mural of the two painted outside of Extended Hands Ministries at the intersection of McCall Avenue and Whitson Street.
Fresno muralist Omar “Super” Huerta, with the help of Selma native Miguel “Mikey” Blanco, painted the mural of Singh and Cruz-Pedro to honor them. Selma Mayor Louis Franco, Mayor Pro Tem Sarah Guerra and councilman Scott Roberson were among the community members that attended the vigil.
Singh died after trying to save Cruz-Pedro and two other children from Kings River at Reedley Beach earlier this month. Cruz-Pedro, who’s family lived in Selma, later died at eight-years-old at Valley’s Children’s Hospital. She was in critical condition after being swept away by the river’s current. Singh was 29-years-old and had moved to Fresno two years ago from India.
Singh’s brother-in-law Malkit Singh said through a translator that the mural was “really good” and “heart touching.”
“We were looking at pictures and we can’t imagine that he’s not here with us,” Malkit said. “We were living together most of the time and whenever we were going to go somewhere, we went together. We would sleep at the same times, wake up the same times and when he was somewhere else, we called each other ‘Hey where are you? What are you doing?’”
When Cruz-Pedro’s mother, Mireida Pedro, looked at the mural, she said it’s a special place.
“I see my daughter up there and it makes my heart feel good that she’s being recognized,” Pedro said through a translator.
Mayor Franco briefly spoke to begin the vigil, followed by a prayer and attendees lit their candles. Singh’s family members constantly consoled a sobbing Pedro, as the two families were continuing to grieve together. Huerta and Blanco both spoke during the vigil saying they wanted to honor Singh and Cruz-Pedro through their art.
“We did it from our hearts,” Huerta said about the mural during the vigil. “We did it for the family of both angels.”
“[The mother’s] heart is shattered, but she could come and see her daughter up here everyday,” Blanco said.
Huerta put the finishing touches on the mural minutes before vigil began. Blanco said Pedro was with him and Huerta when they were completing the project prior to the vigil.
Blanco said he’s been in contact with Pedro every week since her daughter’s death and she was there on the first night when he and Huerta started painting the mural.
“It means everything to me,” Blanco said about painting the mural in his hometown. “As soon as I heard that this happened and that Samantha was from Selma, I wanted to track down her mom right away and just let her know that I’m here for her.”
Manjit’s heroic act inspired Huerta to paint the mural and he wanted his project at Extended Hands Ministries because he wants it to become a place where both families and the community can visit and pray. Murals of Manjit and Cruz-Pedro are being planned in Fresno and Madera.
“This is where Samantha is from, I believe she has family here too,” Huerta said about painting the mural in Selma. “Selma has been in the back of our minds for a little while to spread murals out here. We had three different locations, but since it was going to be a location where prayer was going to take place, we chose it here because it’s at a ministry. There are no color lines when it comes to prayer so we chose this location for that reason.”
Huerta is known for painting murals throughout Fresno and the Central Valley and his past work includes murals of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, Nipsey Hussle, George Floyd, and Vanessa Guillen. What makes this mural special compared to others is he considers this one signifies the “purity of a human being.”
“To honor a hero and it’s something that we must do, especially one that gave his life to save another,” Huerta said. “We can’t not just let something like that pass on by. We have to remember that for years to come, which is why we made a landmark here by painting this mural.”
Jeremiah Martinez can be reached at (559) 583-2413 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Jeremiah on Twitter at @TheJerryMartin.
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