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Daniel Hernandez: 'He Inspired Us'

Hillel Aron |
November 4, 2009 | 1:30 p.m. PST

Senior Editor
Daniel Hernandez was born with Down Syndrome. He was highly active, and enjoyed playing soccer and basketball at school.

He had trouble communicating, and couldn't talk in complete sentences, just a few words here and there, fragments. His family learned to talk with him through a mix of words and sign language. His older sister, Maria, describes Daniel as always friendly with people in their building and in Daniel's school.

When he contracted pneumonia, he was 21, and had just graduated from Frank D. Lanterman school, a special education school in downtown L.A. It was also only a few months after his older brother Martin had died.

Daniel was 19 years younger than Martin, but the two were very close, and spent a lot of time together. After Martin died, Daniel would go to the cemetery and talk to Martin's grave.

When Daniel saw girls pass by who were dressed up, wearing make-up, with their hair done, he would whistle at them, and say, "Wow, good!" The girls would laugh.

"He was a wonderful child," Maria says. "He inspired us to keep going. Now that he's going, well, it's kind of saddening... there's nothing really else here... I guess we're holding up."

Daniel died from acute respiratory insufficiency, a complication of pneumonia, shortly before midnight on June 29.

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