Vigil honors Iskander brothers on 2nd anniversary of fatal Westlake Village crash
Two years after brothers Mark and Jacob Iskander were killed while crossing a Westlake Village street, dozens of neighbors, friends and family clad in white gathered for a vigil Thursday to honor their memory.
On Sept. 29, 2020, Mark, 11, and Jacob, 8, had tried to cross Triunfo Canyon Road at Saddle Mountain Drive when they were hit by a passing car, killing them both. The driver, Rebecca Grossman, 58, of Hidden Hills, has been charged with second degree murder and currently awaits trial in Los Angeles County.
The vigil was held at Three Springs Park, 3000 Three Springs Drive, the neighborhood park where the brothers would play growing up. It began with a prayer delivered by the boys’ mother, Nancy Iskander, who was with them in the crosswalk when they were killed.
“Please God, I ask that everyone who sees me on my feet, that they also know that whatever they struggle with in life, they too will be OK,” Iskander said. “I’m on my feet.”
John Denton, a Los Angeles County firefighter paramedic, comforts Nancy Iskander, the mother of Mark and Jacob Iskander, during a vigil in Westlake Village on Thursday. The gathering marked the second anniversary of the crash that killed the boys as they crossed a nearby street in 2020.
After an acoustic performance by Devin Milligan, the boys’ former music teacher, attendees heard from the Rev. Cyril Gorgy, a parish priest at the Coptic Orthodox Church where the Iskander family attends services.
“Mark and Jacob positively impacted many people who knew them,” Gorgy said, gesturing to the crowd gathered to honor the boys.
Church served as the center for the Iskander children’s lives, as evidenced by the stories shared by their former Sunday school teacher, Mariam Guirgos, as well as their classmates at Ascension Lutheran School. Connor Nagel, one of Mark’s closest friends, recalled how quickly they befriended each other once Mark started attending Ascension Lutheran.
“Mark was the type of friend that, if anything happened, he was always there for me or for anybody,” Nagel said.
Connor’s mother Jenny, a close family friend of the Iskanders, spoke after her son about how their children brought the families together.
“I don’t understand why they are not here with us today,” the elder Nagel said. “I don’t know if God will ever give me this understanding, but I do know that I feel so blessed to have known Mark and Jacob for the short time that I did.”
One of the co-organizers of the vigil, Conejo Valley resident Julie Cohen, said she did not know the Iskander family before the accident but felt compelled to help the family when she heard what happened.
“I grew up in the days in Thousand Oaks when neighbors helped one another,” Cohen said. “Mark and Jacob have brought back that sense of community.”
Vanessa Bechtel, president and CEO of the Ventura County Community Foundation, shared information about the new foundation started in the brothers’ honor, the Mark and Jacob Iskander Foundation. The foundation will raise funds to support underserved children in Egypt and around the world. Details are available at markandjacobfoundation.org.
Near the end of the vigil, the Rev. Chamie Delkeskamp, the religion teacher at Ascension Lutheran, offered a meditation on grief.
Karim and Nancy Iskander release doves in memory of their sons, Mark and Jacob, during a vigil at Three Springs Park in Westlake Village on Thursday. The event marked the second anniversary of the crash that killed the brothers in 2020.
As Delkeskamp spoke, an animal handler placed two boxes on a table behind her.
With the sun lowering in the distance, the Iskander family lifted the cover off the boxes and two dozen doves flew into the air, disappearing into the sunset.
This story originally appeared in the VC Star.