Hundreds of community members gathered at Los Cerritos Park Thursday night for a candlelight vigil to mourn the loss of family of three that died after suspected drunk driver hit them while they were trick-or-treating Halloween night.

They huddled around a growing memorial of 30-year-old Joseph Awaida, his 32-year old wife Raihan Dakhil and their 3-year-old son Omar. Pictures of the family were interspersed with bouquets of marigolds and handwritten messages and prayers at the corner of Country Club Drive and Los Cerritos Park Place, the corner near where they were all fatally struck by an SUV.

The hushed tone of the crowd was only broken by the sounds of the 405 Freeway in the distance before city leaders took turns expressing condolences to the family and urging the community to continue to support each other as the city continues to grieve.

Mother, father and 3-year-old son dead after suspected DUI driver hits them on Halloween

Dakhil’s father, Faisal briefly spoke to the crowd and thanked them for their outpouring of love and support. He recounted his daughter’s marriage to Awaida and the birth of their son Omar, who was named after Awaida’s brother who perished on a hiking trip in 2014, shortly before the couple married.

He said that his daughter loved Long Beach, and now, so does he.

“With the support of the community here I feel something, almost joy,” Dakhil said. “It’s almost like a celebration.”

Awaida’s mother, Vera, also addressed the crowd that spilled into the streets neighboring the park. Speaking through tears she also thanked the community before embracing with the Dakhils.

“This was their community, this was their love, this was their life,” Awaida said of her son’s family. “I’m so grateful for the first responders and everyone that’s been working behind the scenes and we feel the love and thank you very much.”

Scott and Margaret Kessel said they knew the Awaida family for over 25 years. They frequented the auto shop that the family owned and Joseph worked at. Three days before the accident they returned to the shop to pick up their car that was being serviced and met Dakhil and Omar for the first and only time.

“It’s just heartbreaking,” Margaret said.

They said the family was well-known in the area because of the way they treated people through their business.

“Knowing Joe and his business, the way they treated everyone, it doesn’t surprise me at all,” Scott said of large turnout to the vigil.

Yasmin Hussein knew the family through the mosque they attended. She said that they were regarded as very kind people who were deeply involved in the community. Hussein that even their family was unaware of the extent of their volunteering at the mosque.

“I’m here to support the family and show my condolences,” Hussein said. “They were from the community and it was such a tragedy that has touched everyone.”

While many in the crowd knew the family in some capacity, many others came as strangers who merely wanted to pay their respects to the families. Rodrigo Rodriguez lives in the area and his two sons Ian and Diego attend Los Cerritos Elementary.

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They were also out trick-or-treating in the neighborhood the night the Awaida family was killed and he said it just as easily could have been him and his sons. Rodriguez and his sons gathered in front of the memorial before and after the vigil, Rodrigo holding an acoustic guitar and his sons with clarinets, and played the song Vaya Con Dios.

The song popularized by Les Paul and Mary Ford in 1950s translates to “Go with God.”

“We just heard about the news and my guess was that there wasn’t going to be any music playing,” said Rodriguez, who is a mariachi. “Funerals without music are really sad.”

As the crowd begin to disperse and others mulled around, some adding to the growing collection of candles at the memorial and others sharing memories of the young family, Rodriguez and his son serenaded them one final time.

Hundreds of people attended a vigil Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, for Joseph Awaida, Raihan Dakhil and their 3-year-old son, Omar who were killed by a suspected drunk driver on Halloween. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Family members, left, of Joseph Awaida comfort one another as hundreds of people gather around a memorial vigil for Joseph Awaida, Raihan Dakhil and their 3-year-old son, Omar, who were killed by a suspected drunk driver on Halloween night. Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

An Imam walks away from the podium after a prayer for Joseph Awaida, Raihan Dakhil and their 3-year-old son, Omar, during a vigil on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019.  Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Nichole Beatty reacts as Matthew Beatty comforts her during a vigil for Joseph Awaida, Raihan Dakhil and their 3-year-old son, Omar during a vigill in Long Beach Thursday, November 7, 2019.  Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

A child holds a candle during a vigil for Joseph Awaida, Raihan Dakhil and their 3-year-old son, Omar who was killed by a suspected drunk driver on Halloween. Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019.  Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Hundreds of people attended a vigil Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, for Joseph Awaida, Raihan Dakhil and their 3-year-old son, Omar who were killed by a suspected drunk driver on Halloween. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

People gather around a podium as Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia speaks at a vigil for Joseph Awaida, Raihan Dakhil and their 3-year-old son, Omar. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Shehevbano Mehdi wipes a tear as she attends a vigil for Joseph Awaida, Raihan Dakhil and their 3-year-old son, Omar, who were killed by a suspected drunk driver on Halloween. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Vera Awaida talks to the crowd as she stands with other family members during a vigil for her son and his family Joseph Awaida, Raihan Dakhil and their 3-year-old son, Omar, who were killed by a suspected drunk driver on Halloween. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Vera Awaida, left, stands with other family members during a vigil Thursday, Nov. 2019, for her son and his family Joseph Awaida, Raihan Dakhil and their 3-year-old son, Omar. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Hundreds of people attended a vigil Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, for Joseph Awaida, Raihan Dakhil and their 3-year-old son, Omar who were killed by a suspected drunk driver on Halloween. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

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