SAN ANTONIO - It's been a tough loss, both for Houston and San Antonio.
Houston police Officer Sgt. Steve Perez died while trying to make it to work during the severe flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.
He grew up in San Antonio, went to Nimitz Junior High and Robert E. Lee High School.
Two of his childhood friends met Thursday at Robert E. Lee to talk about a boy who grew into a hero. It was a day of reminiscing and healing.
Louis Vidaurri and David Jensen both thumbed through the yearbook from the year they graduated high school with Perez.
"He was quiet, very unassuming person, and he could mesh with anybody. He was just everybody's friend," Jensen said.
"I first met Steve at Nimitz Junior High School in seventh grade. If you were in trouble, he'd find a way to help you. If you didn't have enough money for lunch, he'd give you enough so you could get some lunch. He was just a terrific, terrific friend," Vidaurri said. "I guess we just clicked with each other. Steve was the kind of guy that it doesn’t surprise me that he became a police officer."
It was his will to protect and save people which led to his death. As floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey surged through Houston, Perez got in his car and tried to get to work. His car flooded in an underpass and he drowned.
"When I first found out, I cried," Jensen said, pausing to compose himself. "Still hurts, but people were shocked."
Jensen posted the news on Facebook that day. That's how Vidaurri found out.
"Wow, you know, I couldn't believe it. He was doing what he always does, trying to help people," he said.
The two walked through the halls of their high school for the first time in decades.
"None of this existed. This was grass," Vidaurri said, pointing to the entrance of the newer part of the building.
Then they walked back into the older building that immediately brought them back to their youth.
"I recognize the tile," Jensen said, pointing down at the multicolored floor.
They pointed out lockers, stairwells and classrooms, walking through the memories of easier times. They felt Perez in every part of the school, missing him and feeling proud to have known him.
"If he was half a good a guy as he was when he was in school with us, man, then he was a great guy," Jensen said.
The principal is trying to get in touch with Perez's family to see if they'd like to set up a memorial at the school in his honor. His friends think the tribute to a hero is a wonderful idea.
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