NEW YORK -- President Barack Obama and Justin Bieber were the popular guesses among first graders at St. Lucy's School for their "special guests" at an assembly, but the shrieks sounded no sign of disappointment when Yankees representatives arrived.
Raul Ibanez, Boone Logan, Russell Martin and Rafael Soriano surprised students at the Bronx school, which lost first grader Naily Rosario in an April car accident on the Bronx River Parkway that also killed six of Rosario's family members.
"I have four children of my own, so it's an unimaginable tragedy," Ibanez said. "I can't imagine what the families are going through and what these kids are going through. If just for today, we can send a message of compassion that we care, that the community cares and that we can all pull through this."
Every student wore a Yankees hat and chants of "Let's go Yankees!" reverberated through the small auditorium as the students waited for the Yankees to arrive.
Author Ray Negron introduced YES Network commentator Jack Curry, who then brought out each player one at a time to answer questions before the crowd.
"The thing about kids that I love the most is how honest they are," Martin said. "When they really enjoy something, they really show you. They smile, they laugh, they're having fun. And if they don't like you, they'll show you as well. But right now, everybody's smiling and having a good time, so it means a lot."
Curry gave students a chance to ask Logan questions themselves, and one first grader offered up "You're the best player" when called on to ask Logan anything.
Negron handed out replica World Series rings when students correctly answered questions or stepped to the microphone to sing.
"It makes you feel good that, for today, there's a moment in time when these kids are thinking about something fun that happened here," Ibanez said. "Being a part of that is definitely a blessing."
Rosario's mother was in the SUV that hit a median on the Parkway and careened across two lanes of traffic and over a four-foot rail into the Bronx Zoo, 60 feet below. Her 3-year-old sister, Marlyn, was also on board and had just enrolled at St. Lucy's for the next year.
Rosario's aunt, Maria Nuñez Gonzalez, was driving the vehicle, and her 10-year-old cousin and grandparents from the Dominican Republic were also in the car.
"I can't explain, I can't imagine what's gone on here," said Ibanez, who began to cry when he learned of the story from Negron. "Two out of the four guys here don't even have kids, but it's a very difficult story and a very touching story, so anything that we can do to help is what we're going to do."