LIVINGSTON - Beginning next year, Nov. 2 will always be known as Karina Lau Remembrance Day.
Members of the Livingston City Council unanimously passed a resolution here Tuesday night proclaiming the special day in honor of Lau, who was killed Sunday when the helicopter she was riding in was shot down over Iraq.
She had been en route to an airport to catch the first airplane on the way home to Livingston for a surprise visit with her family.
Luis Lau, the fallen Army private's brother, was on hand to accept the city's resolution and a resolution of condolence from Merced County Supervisor Gloria Cortez Keene.
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"I want to thank the whole town," said Lau. "It's been a tough couple of days for them (his parents). I thank you for the food and the comfort you gave them, especially since I wasn't here the first day."
Lau asked people "to keep supporting those troops and pray for them to come home safely."
Lau is stationed in South Carolina with the Navy. He arrived in Livingston late Monday to be with his family.
"The tragic loss of a citizen of our community will be truly felt for many years to come," said Mayor Gurpal Samra, reading from the city's resolution. "We will set aside this specific date to show our sorrow and respect to the family."
Cortez Keene, the county supervisor, wept as she honored Lau for her academic skills and musical talents, which had earned her a scholarship to the University of the Pacific in Stockton.
"I have a daughter in the service," Cortez Keene said, "and Karina looked a little like my daughter. When I saw her picture, it reminded me of my daughter in her uniform."
Noting Lau had finished eighth in her graduating class at Livingston High School in 2001 and sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" at graduation, Cortez Keene said, "Indeed, we have lost a star."
Following the presentation, the council members recessed for a few minutes, enabling themselves and others to express their sympathy to Lau's brother and members of his family who accompanied him.
The death of the 20-year-old lifelong Livingston resident cast a pall on the community, with those who know her feeling devastated and those who now know her story feeling the war has come close to home, according to Pam Davis, who works at the Movie Gallery video store on Main Street.
Livingston High School staff was also hit hard by the news, said Principal Robert Wendel.
Lau is remembered by staff members not only for her academic achievements, Wendel said, but also for her ability to be friends with both staff and fellow students.
On Saturday, members of the Livingston High band will wear black armbands when they participate in the band review in downtown Merced.
Denis Wells, president of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter and a friend of the Lau family, said the private is the first female from Livingston to lose her life during military service.
Wells placed flags and lighted candles in her honor at Memorial Park early Tuesday morning. Small posters were placed in the park to remember her and explain the flags and candles were to honor her.
Lau's remains arrived in the United States Tuesday, Wells said, but the date for a memorial service has not been set.