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Vigil Held For Brothers To The Rescue Victims

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Dozens stood in silence around the fountain in the center of the FIU main campus, holding hands as they remembered the events of 18 year ago at exactly 3:21pm, when the first Brothers to the Rescue plane was shot down.

“The second plane went down at 3:27pm, said Maggie Khulu, “My brother died in the second plane.”

Her brother, Armondo Alejandre, Junior, was one of the four Brothers to the Rescue members were killed that day.

February 24, 2014: Brothers to the Rescue vigil at FIU. (Source: Brian Andrews, CBS4)

February 24, 2014: Brothers to the Rescue vigil at FIU. (Source: Brian Andrews, CBS4)

Maria de la Pena’s son Mario was also killed.

“When people find out we were his parents, they cry,” she told CBS4’s Brian Andrews as she welled up with tears.  “We want justice for them.  The pilots who shot them down and the Military Commander who gave the order have been indicted.  We hold on to hope one day justice will be served,” she said.

In the mid-1990’s, Brothers to the rescue flew hundreds of missions over the Florida Straits, looking for rafters, and dropping food, water, and 2-way radios to them.

Their missions also included the dropping of thousands of pro-democracy leaflets over Havana and the Cuban coast.

Mirta Costa is the mother of Carlos Costa who was killed that day.  “There’s a great pain in my heart that won’t go away.  I will never forget,” she said.  Costa says she keeps her son’s room the way it was 18 years ago, with his books on his desk and his clothes in his closet.

FIU Law School Dean Alex Acosta, a former US Attorney in South Florida, told CBS4’s Brian Andrews, “Emotions still run high on this. This was a huge issue in the exile and Cuban-American community when it happens.  These people are still hopeful justice will prevail.”

The families of Brothers to the Rescue have set up scholarships at the FIU law school.

Dick Mikael Ortega is one of the recipients.

Ortega and his family were saved from the straits years ago, spotted by a BTTR plane who sent the Coast Guard to save them.

“My family and I were on that raft. They saved us.  And the fact they are sponsoring me now with a scholarship is even more incredible.”

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