Pineapple Princess Esplanade memorial dedicated for Ciara Smith
by David Mendez
The sun was setting behind Barry Smith as he took the podium before dozens of people along the Esplanade at Knob Hill Avenue in Redondo Beach.
In front of him sat a newly-placed memorial for his late daughter, Ciara Smith. Ciara’s parents and two younger sisters were there as officials from the City of Redondo Beach and the County of Los Angeles cut the ribbon on a bench over the bluffs toward the ocean. In this distance, patrol boats from both LA County and Redondo Beach readied a water cannon salute.
“It’s funny how things work out…this was one of our favorite places,” Smith said.
Ciara was killed May 5, at the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Knob Hill, She and a friend were bicycling south on the sidewalk, along Pacific Coast Highway when Ciara pedaled off the sidewalk to cross Knob Hill. She struck the side of a passing LA Metro bus and was pronounced dead at the scene.
By nightfall, the southwest corner of Knob Hill and PCH had blossomed with signs, flowers, candles, and pineapples, in honor of Ciara’s “Pineapple Princess” nickname. As days and weeks passed, the memorial grew and grew.
“Unexpected tragedies have a way of bringing out the best in communities,” Mayor Bill Brand said.
Plans for a permanent memorial began ramping up shortly after Ciara’s memorial ceremony at St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church.
“We were looking at a few locations, one at Czuleger Park, and we considered having one at the [original memorial site], but I was down here one day and said…well, why not just do it here?” Brand said. Barry and Rose Smith signed off, and the work proceeded quickly.
Brand reached out to Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who found money in the county budget for both the bench and landscaping for what Brand called “Ciara’s Garden.” The LA County Department of Beaches and Harbors then installed irrigation and planted a native garden.
“It makes the memorial bench very special, to have this landscaping and, of course, the Pacific Ocean,” Hahn said. “We hope it brings some solace to the family and the community.”
Ciara’s death elicited an outpouring of love for the Smith families. Thousands of dollars were raised through GoFundMe, and meal trains formed to bring good to Ciara’s parents and sisters.
“We’re under no illusion that this bench, or this garden, is some sort of closure for Ciara’s family…but we wanted to make a place where they can come,” Brand said. “This bench will always be here. This garden will always be here, Ciara’s spirit will always be here, and the view will always be here.”
“If I never do anything ever again as mayor, I got Ciara’s family a bench to remember her by,” Brand said after the dedication.
It was an emotional day for the Smith family, Barry noted; he lost his oldest daughter just before last school year ended, and the new school year had just began.
“It’s kind of a constant adjustment, each season you go through and you don’t have her,” Smith said. The community’s support, however, has been a great help. “That’s one of the bittersweet things; first, to have lost her, but for us to have been here, I think, helped us and her sisters a lot. We’re really fortunate to be in Redondo.”