Last Thanksgiving, Lorraine Anderson was talking about plans to spend the holiday with her son, a combat soldier who had just returned from Afghanistan. This year, the 57-year-old spent the day making funeral arrangements for him and his twin brother.
Andersons sons, Robert and Michael, were two of three people killed in a solo vehicle crash in the Sacramento area on Saturday, just three days shy of their 24th birthdays today.
The crash was reported about 2:30 a.m. on southbound Highway 99, south of Calvine Road. Merced resident Sean Leon-Guerrero, 24, was driving a 2010 Acura, and the Anderson brothers were passengers.
According to the CHP, Leon-Guerrero lost control of the car. It drifted to the right of the highway and onto the dirt shoulder, then struck a chain-link fence and a metal pole. CHP reported the vehicle was traveling between 80 and 100 mph, and they suspect that alcohol was a factor.
All three men were pronounced dead at the scene.
Lorraine Anderson said she had awoken from a dream and heard a voice Saturday morning saying, Michael is dead. Ten minutes later she got a knock on the door from the Merced County sheriffs deputies informing her about the accident.
At first I thought maybe it was Gods voice someway, Anderson said. I dont know much about the spirit world, but I have actually wondered if that was Robert the spirit of Robert telling Mom that Michael was dead and not knowing of his own fate yet.
Robert, an Elk Grove resident, was a sergeant in the Marines who served two tours in Afghanistan. Michael, an Atwater resident, was a specialist in the Army National Guard who returned from Afghanistan in July.
Anderson was mourning her sons Monday afternoon when she received a visit from a team of Army soldiers. The men had traveled to her Merced home to show support, get information about the familys wishes for funeral arrangements and facilitate life insurance payouts.
The brothers will receive full military honors at their funerals, said Army Sgt. Jonathan OGaffrey.
While making decisions about her sons final resting place, Anderson also took a moment Monday to pray for the family of the other victim, Leon-Guerrero. He was a childhood friend of the Anderson brothers. I recognize that Im not the only one thats mourning and I can be an encouragement to others, Anderson said.
Seans mother, Patricia Leon-Guerrero, said Monday shes also praying for Andersons family. She wished the men had made a better choice, but said her son shouldnt be blamed because he was driving.
I know theyll put the blame on him because he was behind the wheel, Leon-Guerrero, 44, said Monday. But he is not this drunk or alcoholic people are putting him out to be. I dont know why they made the decisions they did.
Amanda Fleitz, Leon-Guerreros fiancée, echoed that sentiment.
I feel that theres a little bit of finger-pointing, Fleitz said. Ive seen some comments that people have put on Facebook. Hes not somebody that went out and did anything intentionally. Theyre all adults. They all made a choice and it was a bad one.
Well never know why they handed him keys to a car that was not his or why the boys decided to get in a car together if they were drinking, Leon-Guerrero said, but they went together and God took them together.
Leon-Guerrero said she hasnt spoken to Anderson about the crash but would welcome the opportunity to mourn for their sons together. I want to hug her and say Im sorry we lost our kids, she said. Ive been praying for her and asking God for strength.
Anderson has also been praying, she said, and believes losing her sons might have been a matter of fate. I feel that God has his reason and its not really for me to know, she said. But I do know that the twins are not finished touching peoples lives yet.
As the mothers turn to their faith for solace and comfort, friends and family remember the lives of three young men cut tragically short.
He was funny and outgoing. You could go to him for anything, said Kyle Climer, Michael Andersons roommate for nine months in Afghanistan. Were not going to be able to replace that guy. He is a brother, he still is, and hell always be a part of our lives.
He was always there for me; he was my best friend, Fleitz said. He loved me so much and always tried to make me laugh. I would just look at him sometimes and be so proud of him.
Sun-Star staff writer Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.