To take care of her family, Elizabeth Peralta-Luna worked at a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop and an ice cream shop, and she also made tamales to sell at festivals.
“Everything she did, she did for her children,” said Alejandra Valencia, a friend who said Peralta-Luna was like a sister to her.
The devoted single mother of two couldn’t imagine life without her children, she once told Valencia. And she didn’t want them to be without her.
They never had to find out what that would be like. All three were killed Friday when a semi-truck hit them as they walked together across South Ashland Avenue in Back of the Yards.
It happened just before 5 p.m. Peralta-Luna, her 9-year-old daughter Elizabeth and 4-year-old son Dylan were walking in a line across Ashland, probably trying to get to the bus stop on their way to Pilsen, Valencia said.
The truck driver kept going until witnesses, waving their arms, got him to stop about a block away, said Salvador Rodriguez, 60, who said he saw it.
Zachary Barngrover, 23, of Iowa, received two traffic citations — for failing to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk and making an improper left turn, the police said Saturday.
Elizabeth Peralta-Luna, left, and her children Dylan, 4, and Elizabeth, 9.
Dozens of people gathered Saturday at 43rd Street and Ashland Avenue to remember the woman they described as hardworking, charismatic and loving. Like Valencia, many thought of Peralta-Luna as family even though there weren’t related.
“We adopted her,” said Valencia, 36. “She needed a family.”
Peralta-Luna arrived in the United States from Mexico’s capital about 10 years ago, according to her friends. She came alone, seeking to make a better life for herself. On top of working multiple jobs, Peralta-Luna also got her GED and planned on taking college courses, Valencia said.
“She worked and worked,” said Isabel Serrano, 48.
And she doted on her kids. Her mini-me namesake was a third-grader at the Horizon Science Academy-Southwest Chicago charter school.
“She was so smart, you felt like you were talking to a teenager,” said Iris Castaneda, 19, who considered Peralata-Luna and the kids part of her family.
School officials said in a written statement Saturday, “We are deeply saddened by the loss of our student, who will be remembered by her classmates and teachers as bright, energetic and full of promise.”.
Young Elizabeth’s brother Dylan was a calm little boy until he was around his loving mom “trying to get her attention,” Castaneda said.
Before the accident Friday, Peralata-Luna had picked up her son from a nearby daycare, Valencia said, and bought her daughter a cellphone at a nearby shop, a reward for good grades.
Firends left flowers and balloons Saturday to remember Elizabeth Peralta-Luna. Becky Schlikerman / Sun-Times
At the memorial Saturday, balloons depicting princesses and cartoon characters blew in the wind, reminders of the young lives lost. Amid the sadness and tears, Peralta-Luna’s friends asked how the truck driver failed to see the family in his path.
Rodriguez, who was on a break from a job at a nearby factory, said he saw the driver talking on a cell phone behind the wheel. He also said the family had the right of way.
The police would not comment on that.
And no one could understand why the driver didn’t immediately stop.
“How do you not feel the bumps? Hear the noise? The screams?” Castaneda said.
Barngrover couldn’t be reached Saturday, and representatives of the trucking company he works for didn’t respond to calls seeking comment.
Peralta-Luna’s friends are trying to raise moneyfor the “Elizabeth and children funeral” fund, to send the bodies of mother and children to Mexico, where her mother lives, for burial.
When they do, Valencia said she will go along.
“They will not go alone,” she said.