The night before she died, Natalie Corona asked her best friend: “What’s your biggest fear?”
“Being alone,” said her friend, Mariah Diaz.
“You’ll never be alone,” said Corona, putting her hand on Diaz’s shoulder to reassure her.
Even in her private life, at a weekday sleepover with her best friend, Corona did her best to protect and serve. She sought to stare down fear and comfort those in need.
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We don’t know what Corona’s biggest fear might have been. We do know that her dream, since childhood, had been to put on a police uniform like her dad and stand fearlessly on the front lines of public safety. She wanted to serve.
“She told me, ‘Dad, this is what I want to do,’” her father, retired Colusa County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Merced Corona, said in an interview with The Bee’s Marcos Breton.
Officer Corona knew her job was dangerous, like all law enforcement officers. She came from a family of cops. She knew that every day she put on her badge, gun and bulletproof vest for the Davis Police Department could be her last.
Yet she never could have expected anything like this: A fender bender – a routine and minor mishap on the streets of one of the safest cities in America – turned into a deadly ambush by a man she’d never even met.
She’d only been doing the job solo for a few weeks when he stepped out of the shadows and, without a word, fired his gun until it was empty.
We may never know the motive. What we do know is that our community has lost a bright, shining star. Officer Corona’s watch has ended, along with her life at the age of 22.
She will never patrol her Davis beat again. She will never visit her parents for a weekend barbecue or chat until dawn at a sleepover with friends. She will never get married or start a family of her own. Officer Corona made the ultimate sacrifice. Her family, friends and fellow officers have suffered an unbearable loss.
Most us did not know Officer Corona in life. But in death she has touched us all. It’s hard to honor her service with mere words, so perhaps the best thing to do is to let her speak.
In a caption to a now-famous photograph she posted to her Facebook page in 2016, Officer Corona demonstrated both enthusiasm for her future profession and awareness of its dangers. Alongside the photo, which showed her posing on a Central Valley back road clad in the police blue color she favored, Corona wrote:
“I would like this photograph to serve as my gratitude for all those law enforcement men and women who have served, who are currently serving, and those who have died in the line of duty protecting our liberties in this great country.”
She tagged herself in the post as: “Feeling thankful.”