Grecia Meza’s sister died in June after an alleged drunken driver slammed into the two little girls as they were walking with their mother in a Santa Ana crosswalk.
The 6-year-old will spend Christmas without her sister for the first time this year, but Grecia still has a healthy curiosity about the man in the red suit with the white beard.
On Thursday, Santa Claus made a special visit to her home, courtesy of the Santa Ana Police and Fire Departments. There was even a small parade, with motorcycle officers leading the way.
They all knew that they couldn't replace what Grecia lost, but they were willing to try.
Osmara Meza, Grecia's sister, just 6 at the time of the crash, was killed. The sisters' mother, Eloisa, was in a coma for weeks.
"And to see the rest of the family, one by one, coming to the scene, horrified and terrified, it just added to the emotions," said Sgt. Richard Shin, of the Santa Ana Police Department.
That day in June, Santa Ana public safety officers encountered a scene that even the most experienced veterans found difficult to process.
"Gang violence, domestic violence, they’re all evil," said Cpl. Israel Garcia, "but when a child is involved, it’s even harder."
Progressing well after having been in a coma for weeks, mother Eloisa didn't learn about her daughter's death until well after the incident, when she regained her senses. She said she was thankful for Thursday's visit, because of the smile it put on her daughter's face.
An interpreter told NBC4 she wants other families who endure similar nightmares to know that they can still have a worthwhile future.
Grecia spent a week in the hospital after the incident. She was showered with gifts on Thursday from people she'd never met. But the loss of her sister, who she says loved Hello Kitty and the color purple, is still evident.
Still, she thinks of her sister this Christmas with the same love as if she were here.
"I want her to be with us at Christmas but she can’t," she said with a smile. "But she’s still with us because she’s in our hearts."