A small casket was pulled out of a hearse at Saint John Neumann Catholic Church Friday afternoon. The casket was red, and everyone attending wore some of the color – which was Bella Rodriguez-Torres’ favorite.
"Selfishly, of course, I don't want Bella gone," Miami Police Sgt. Javier Ortiz said. "But it's much of a relief to know that Bella is now in heaven and this is truly a celebration, and I hope that her legacy lives on."
Bella, 10, lost her six-year battle with cancer on Tuesday. On Friday, she was laid to rest surrounded by hundreds of friends and family. One of those friends is Ortiz, a man who met Bella when she was made police chief for a day. It was her wish because she wanted to be an officer herself when she grew up.
Dozens of officers showed their support for her by wearing red bows or tape over their badges at her funeral in Kendall. Sgt. Ortiz has many memories of his young friend.
"Her mother was crying and Bella looked over at her and said, 'Mom, why are you crying?' and her mom said, 'I'm not crying' and she looked at her mom and said, 'Mom, don't cry. Just pray for me.' It just shows the innocence," Ortiz said. "It just shows how Bella always looked out for everyone else. No matter how much pain she was in, she never complained."
A sign outside her school, where she was a fourth-grader, reads "Live Like Bella." Those three words have gone viral on social media as #LiveLikeBella. The saying has been echoed by Justin Bieber, the Miami Heat, and thousands on Twitter and Facebook.
"The support that we've seen has been amazing," said Ralph Rodriguez-Torres, Bella's uncle and godfather. "She's going to have, in heaven, the childhood that she was robbed of here on this Earth."
All of her schoolmates from Saint John Neumann were released early and some even sang at her funeral.
Next week, Miami Police officers will shave their heads for donations to fight childhood cancer, then they will ride from Miami to Key West.
For more information log onto Bella2013.com, search "Pray For Bella" on Facebook, or search #LiveLikeBella on Twitter to see the outpouring of support.