NORTH HOLLYWOOD The parents of Los Angeles police Officer Spree Desha, who was among the 25 people killed in Friday's Metrolink crash, praised their daughter Monday as a "wonderful person" who was honored to dedicate her life to the department and the city.
"She was very loving and giving, and she gave her life for the city of Los Angeles and for the citizens of Los Angeles, and I know she gave her life willingly and loved everybody here," Sha Moran said of her 35-year-old daughter, who died when the Metrolink train she was riding slammed into a freight train Friday afternoon.
"And she would have given her life for her brothers and sisters of the Los Angeles Police Department in one minute," Moran said. "She didn't mind a bit to give herself."
Desha's parents and her girlfriend, fellow LAPD Officer Laura Gerritsen, said Desha had recently been reassigned to the department's downtown Parker Center headquarters, so had only recently begun riding the train.
"I was working that night and I heard about the accident and I didn't think about it right off, because the train is kind of a new thing for her," Gerritsen said, standing alongside Desha's parents outside the North Hollywood Division police station.
"She just started this job," Gerritsen said. "When I got there, it all started to click to me when I got to the scene. I told my boss that I thought that Spree was on the train and I needed to go check it out.
"... We went over there and a firefighter who used to be a neighbor of mine was there on scene and I hadn't seen her in the triage area, so I asked if there was any LAPD officers on the train," she said. "He mentioned to me he had seen a uniform with stripes on the sleeve but he couldn't tell if it was male or female, and I knew when he told me that, I knew that it was her deep down."
Gerritsen said she walked away from the scene at that point, because she didn't want to see Desha's body removed from the train wreckage.
"I didn't want to remember her like that," she said.
Desha's father, Alan Moran, said his daughter had a zest for life.
"If she were here today, she would say, 'What's all the fuss about? I would rather have gone down in the line of duty in gunfire rather than through a tragic accident like this,"' he said.
Being a police officer "was her life," he said. "I mean, she had done a number of things in her life. She was a dancer at a young age and came to Los Angeles to seek a career as a professional dancer. Some of her very close friends today are dancers here in the Los Angeles area. ... She always had the personality -- and we knew this for a long time -- that would fit perfectly to be a Los Angeles police officer. She had the personality to want to help others and the strength to be able to do it in the face of adversity."
Sha Moran said her daughter shaved her head once and donated the hair to Locks of Love, which provides wigs for cancer patients.
"I don't know who the man is, but I'm extremely grateful for the man in the community where the train crash was that came down and gave a flag to put over her body as they took her off," Sha Moran said. "And we'll be ever grateful for that."
Funeral services for Desha will be held at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles.
"I know Spree feels like every single officer is her brother or sister in blue, and I know she's very thankful for (Los Angeles Fire Department) taking such great care of her," Gerritsen said. "I know everybody says this about everyone they love, but she was an incredible person. She would give anything for anybody at anytime and do anything for anybody. She was just such a giver and very straightforward and not a bone of hate in her body.
"I miss her, but I'm glad I had six years, six wonderful years with her."