ARBUCKLE, Calif. — Fallen officer Natalie Corona would have turned 23 on Friday. Her family and friends came together at Arbuckle Cemetery with songs, balloons, and even birthday cake, that turned a sad occasion into a celebration of life.
"We would be out probably somewhere having dinner or celebrating with family somewhere," admitted Merced Corona, father Natalie Corona. "And so it hits you, especially hard - especially the first, all the firsts. This is her first birthday after her death and so it's especially sad for us."
More than six months after Officer Corona was killed in the line of duty, her sisters Kathy, Jackie, Cindy, and best friend Mariah Diaz spent the day the best way they could.
"Its been tough. It's been a tough day, but we went out and had a great day sharing love, joy, went to all of her favorite spots for lunch and Dutch afterwards," said Diaz.
"Dutch Bros. of course," added Jackie Corona. "Her favorite."
They said they're eternally grateful for the love and support of the community, but they want others to know they are not alone in their loss.
"There's other families out there that have to deal with this every day too, like we do," said Kathy Corona. "We've talked to those families, and, I mean, we're not the only one's out there suffering and going through this. And, they need just as much support as we do."
The crowd sang songs and held onto each other for comfort.
Officer Corna's father shared a story about a conversation she had with her mother just weeks before her death.
"She said if I die tomorrow, know that I'll die happy, because I've accomplished everything I've set out to accomplish," said Merced Corona. "I think she had something, premonitions or something, maybe her time was going to be short. And she wanted us to know that... how happy she was."
Together, officer Corona's family and friends sang happy birthday and released balloons into the air.