Zyaira Mateen, 6: The girl who loved to read and dance

Zyaira Mateen, 6, was killed in a school bus crash on Monday.
photo Zyaira Mateen, 6, was killed in a school bus crash on Monday.

Zyaira and Zasmyn Mateen acted like twins, even though they were born nine months apart.

The 6-year-old sisters were inseparable, each other's best friend, aunt Brieasha Brown said. If one got something, the other had to have it, too.

So, of course, they sat next to each other on the school bus.

They were side by side when that bus swerved off the road and smashed into a tree Monday.

Zyaira was gone in an instant.

Zasmyn survived.

"I've been crying so much I can't even cry no more," Brown said.

Zyaira was a smart, sharp little girl who loved to read and dance, Brown said. She adored school. Her smile lit up a room and she never hesitated to speak her mind.

"If your breath stank, she was going to tell you your breath stank," Brown said.

Zyaira went by the nickname 'Phat Phat,' while Zasmyn is called 'Bird.' Their older sister, 10-year-old Zacauree'A Brown, also survived the crash.

Sometimes the sisters talk about what they saw that afternoon, and sometimes they just cry, Brown said.

Zasmyn is still coming to understand her sister's death, she said.

"She's young. She thinks we just telling her [Zyaira] is dead and she is still going to come home," Brown said.

Now, every past moment with Zyaira is a cherished memory for Brown. There was the time they got into a food fight in a Chinese restaurant on Zyaira's fifth birthday and got kicked out. And how Zyaira would come home from school and take a nap every day during her first year. "School just wore me out," she'd say.

One September night, the first-grader sat outside with her aunt and made a confession.

A boy in her class was calling her "baby," Zyaira said. But, she said, she wasn't really into boys at the moment.

Brown told her that was good.

"Don't think about boys until you're 30," Brown said.

"30?" Zyaira protested.

"Yeah," Brown said. "Thirty. Go to college, graduate, and then think about boys."