Around 100 people gathered Wednesday near the Westlake Village crosswalk where two young brothers were hit by a car the night before. They came to grieve, to say prayers and to remember the boys, one who died at the scene and the other a few hours later at the hospital.
Eleven-year-old Mark and 9-year-old Jacob Iskander were two bright, energetic boys, friends said. They made everyone around them laugh.
Most of the people who gathered at the intersection of Triunfo Canyon Road and Saddle Mountain Drive were not residents of Westlake Village. They drove there from Camarillo, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks and other cities in the region, members of Archangel Michael Coptic Christian Church in Simi Valley, who wanted to mourn the loss of two of their own.
Emad Ibrahim of Simi Valley met the family through the church several years ago. Ibrahim said he and the rest of the congregation heard news of the boys’ deaths the morning of Sept. 30 from their priest. Ibrahim’s oldest son is the same age as Mark, and he said the two boys were close friends.
“I was shocked. My son was there with me and he heard it and he started crying. At 11 it’s really hard—I didn’t think he’d really understand but he was heartbroken,” Ibrahim said. “He was asking, ‘I’m not going to see Mark? I’m not going to play with Mark?’ It was difficult. You can only imagine what their family is going through.”
The “Copt” in Coptic means Egyptian. Ibrahim said it’s a Coptic cultural custom when someone experiences a loss that the rest of the community pulls close to support those in need, to offer prayer, aid, or anything else that might be required.
The Iskander family had requested space for the time being, to grieve the loss of their two eldest children in private, so the community decided the best way to honor their loss was to gather at the accident site, lay flowers, light candles and offer stuffed animals. They sang hymns and shared memories of Mark and Jacob.
Mark was a sixth grader at Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village. Jacob attended Ascension Lutheran School in Thousand Oaks, mourners said.
Simi Valley resident Marcos Guirguis, a servant in the church, was Mark’s Sunday school teacher. The two had been in class together two days before the accident.
“Mark was a very sweet boy. He was well-educated, well-disciplined. He knew a lot of things from the Bible, from the church teachings. He was friends with everyone,” Guirguis said.
The Iskanders are well-loved members of the congregation. Ibrahim said when she was pregnant with their fourth child, she and others would tease the boys’ mother that it would be another boy, her fourth, and she would stop trying for a girl.
That didn’t happen. Mark and Jacob have a younger brother Zach, 4, and a baby sister, who is 18 months old.
The family was out for a walk Tuesday when tragedy struck.
Mark and Jacob were ahead of their parents and siblings, riding a scooter and roller blades down the sidewalk. They were the first of the family to reach the crosswalk, which has no lights, stop signs, or other warnings to alert drivers that someone is in the road.
Ibrahim said the congregation was shocked by how a simple family activity could take such a horrible turn so quickly.
“Everybody’s praying for them. I think that’s the prayers everyone’s offering on their behalf, that’s the one thing that’s really going to help them through this,” Ibrahim said. “There’s some things in life you can’t explain. Why they were at a crosswalk (at that moment)? . . . You might think maybe they were just trying to rush to the other side, but they did everything right and still.”
The driver of the vehicle who hit the boys, Rebecca Gray Grossman of Hidden Hills, left jail just after midnight Oct. 1 after posting bond. Her bail was set at $2 million.
The 57-year-old co-founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation is accused of vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident.
Grossman is due to come before a judge Wed., Oct. 21 in Los Angeles County Superior Court-San Fernando, according to LASD jail website.