Remembering Elva Torres

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Remembering Elva Torres

By Angelyn Ramos and Marshall Foster

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The University of Utah community is mourning the loss of one of our own, Elva “Lala” Torres. On Monday, Aug. 26, the ROTC cadet and U student began her regular morning physical training, but shortly after beginning, she collapsed and was transported to the University of Utah Hospital. On Wednesday, Aug. 28, Torres was pronounced dead. She was beginning her senior year of college in the ROTC and was a film and media arts student. Weeks later, her family, friends and professors continue to remember the cadet, affectionately nicknamed “Lala.” 

The Day Of

“She was just running when it happened,” Major Jeremy Bourque said when asked what happened during the fateful physical training session. The physical training session was nothing new for Torres, Major Bourque explained. The training the ROTC cadets were participating in “was the conditioning phase to build you up towards doing different things.” The conditioning drills consisted of a “warm-up, about fifteen push-ups, normal core exercises and then we ran down to the reserve center on Fort Douglas. And then we did pull-ups, dips and jump-ups. They had a buddy with them and they did it as a group.”

Bourque also explained that the weather conditions were not unusual. “There was a little breeze coming in. It was a little hot. We were doing it [the training] at six in the morning, so the sun wasn’t even up when we finished. We are done by seven o’clock in the morning, and we do that because it isn’t the heat of the day … the last time I checked, I think the temperature was 73 degrees.”

The major also clarified that Cadet Torres had done the physical training before because the ROTC program does physical training three days a week. Cadet Torres had been in the ROTC program for a while — first at Weber State and then at the U. Bourque explained that Weber State and the U’s ROTC programs are very similar in their training, so there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary when Cadet Torres transferred. Torres was “in the best shape of her life,” Bourque said. “She had just come back from cadet summer training, which is 37 days of very physically intensive efforts.” When Torres came back from summer training, she was “ready to go, totally physically prepared.” 

Life at the ROTC program after the passing of Cadet Torres continues on with the pain and sadness one would expect from losing a close friend. “It is very emotional, there were a lot of tears that were shed,” Bourque said. “She was a spark. Cadets were drawn to her.” In regards to the physical conditioning training the cadets do three days a week, Bourque said, “We have absolutely kept everything the same, with obviously more monitoring. So if we see a cadet struggling more than normal we will pull them aside and have a talk with them.” He stressed the fact that there was no sign of Cadet Torres struggling before she collapsed. “She wasn’t struggling at all. She was performing as well as expected.” After the passing of Cadet Torres, the U put out this statement:

“The U campus community is mourning the death of student and ROTC cadet Elva Torres. Elva collapsed during physical training with her ROTC cohort on campus the morning of Monday, Aug. 26. She was immediately transported by ambulance to the University of Utah Hospital where she died on Aug. 28. Her cause of death has not yet been determined. Elva was a senior at the university majoring in Film and Media Studies. She was 23 years old and graduated from Northridge High School in Layton, Utah in 2014.”

Possible Stroke

A Fox 13 article published three days after Torres’ passing reported that Torres’ family believed she suffered a stroke while going about her normal training, which lead to her eventual death. According to a CDC report put out in the fall of 2017, strokes are the fifth leading cause of death among Americans. However, 34% of strokes occurred in individuals under the age of 65. Though seemingly unlikely to have happened and quite unheard of, an Everyday Health article explains how “even though the overall rate of strokes is decreasing, it is increasing for young and middle-aged people.” The article goes on to further explain that “risk factors that make someone susceptible to stroke, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity” leaves Torres as an additional outlier. According to Major Bourque, she was “in the best shape of her life.”

According to a WedMD article, “many doctors don’t recognize stroke symptoms in younger patients.” Typically, stroke symptoms present themselves in older adults as face drooping and slurred speech. No matter the age of a stroke victim, time is key for survival, as the longer a patient waits before treatment, the less oxygen flow they’ll get to the brain. Strokes typically occur due to a blockage of blood flow in the brain. Symptoms in young patients are significantly more difficult to identify, and the results of young adults suffering from a stroke often lead to much more tragic outcomes. 

Remembering Elva

Though the family has declined to speak with any additional press, in the same Fox 13 news report, Torres’s brother Raul Torres III reflects on her character and who she was by stating, “She would always have a special relationship with those around her, those who would actually get to know her, she wouldn’t leave them because she was a very loyal friend … she would always bring a smile to the room.”

Film and Media Arts associate professors and sisters Sonia Albert-Sobrino and Miram Albert, known as the ALSO sisters, reflected on the type of student and person Torres was. They spoke of their first memory of her, saying, “We first met Elva as an actress. It was during a cold afternoon in December of 2015. … Her energy was contagious, there was something genuinely great about her. Her wide smile and positive energy lifted our spirits. … She was that kind of person, the one [you] can only aspire to be but will never be.” The sisters left on a final heartwarming note about Torres, saying, “We both always joked about how we wanted to be her when we grew up. She inspired people to be better, and she did that with such a grace that it empowered people. That was the type of person she was: hard-working, smart, funny, kind, talented and very strong. Gorgeous inside and out. We will always remember her.

Bourque also reflected on his time with Torres by saying she was “motivated and already leading people.” He continued on to say “she had the spark and personality that drew people to her, so it was very easy to be engaged with her.” Torres’ dream was to commission as a second lieutenant and serve the country in the National Guard. 

In Loving Memory

The U continues to mourn the loss of a truly dedicated and brilliant student, cadet and friend. Torres suffered from a tragic occurrence, but everyone who has had the opportunity to meet and interact with her was left feeling as though they were a better person just for knowing her. The ALSO sisters finishing up by saying “We are honored that we can share our experience and how lucky we were to get to know her.”

 

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