En route to the Troy train station to board a train that would bring her to Rhode Island to reunite with her beau, Alicia Quintana was killed in a car accident. She was the passenger in the car of a co-worker who was taking her to the train station. The co-worker made a wrong turn on Route 787 and faced oncoming truck traffic. The collision killed both of them.
A week before the accident, Alicia had been shopping with her mother, Pattie Steffens. Alicia, then a senior at St. Rose College in Albany, was preparing to graduate with a major in music education. That day, Quintana received a phone call from her boyfriend Brian, who was in the Coast Guard.
Alicia was frustrated and grumbled, “You don’t end a conversation that way.”
Her mother asked her what she meant. “You don’t say, Bye, luvya,” Alicia replied. “If you’re going to say it, you have to say it with meaning: Goodbye, I love you!”
A few seconds later her daughter’s cellphone rang again, and her boyfriend enunciated the words “I love you” with meaning.
Alicia was killed at 3 a.m., said Steffens, a New Paltz native and a now-retired Spanish teacher for both the New Paltz and Highland school districts. Due to confusion over the two girls’ identification, though, Steffens was not notified until 1 p.m. the next day.
“That morning, I woke up and had scripted something I wanted to say to her father, Gonzalo Quintana, as it would have been our 25th wedding anniversary,” Steffens remembered. Although the parents had long-since been divorced, Steffens wanted to thank him “for marrying me 25 years ago and giving me these two beautiful children [Alicia and her brother Daniel].”
Steffens was running late to meet a friend for lunch that day, and she told herself she’d call Quintana as soon as she returned. Instead of calling him to tell him how grateful she was, however, she instead had to give him the news that Alicia had been killed.
The trauma was almost more than any parent could bear. Steffens particularly worried about their other child, Daniel, then 22 and Alicia’s best friend. “I said to my husband, I’m afraid I may lose both of my children.”
As she showed a series of pictures of Alicia and Daniel together, smiling, laughing, hugging, Steffens said, “A parent should never underestimate their child. As devastated as he was, he showed up with such strength.”
Daniel became the driving force behind a scholarship program, “Love Out Loud,” now in its fourth year. This past Wednesday night Highland High School hosted a “Laugh Out Loud” festival. Glenn Heroy, a New Paltz native who is now a professional clown with the Big Apple Circus in New York City as well as the subject of a recent PBS documentary on the life of a professional clown, was there, as was Alicia’s best friend, Emily Carragher, who also works for the Big Apple Circus.
Daniel wanted his sister to be remembered for the incredible spirit that she was, and not just as a fatality statistic. That’s where Love out Loud came from. “She was always saying, I love you, or I love that dress, or I love that chair,” he said. “She was just a lover and a joy.”
Steffens recalled a moment she says will stay with her forever. The family was gathered around the casket at the Copeland funeral home. “It was an open casket and Tim [Copeland] did the best job he could, but we made a decision as a family to close the casket,” said Steffens. “But before we did I asked everyone to pause and say, Goodbye, I love you, Alicia. Because that’s what she would have wanted. Then we closed the casket.”