Nothing is ever the same when you lose someone close to your heart.
Everything in life all of a sudden becomes a blur.
Days pass by and you’re only left with pictures and memories.
Some can never accept the reality that a departed loved one won’t ever be coming back. But eventually, most find an inner-strength and do.
Tiffany, the New York Jets Flight Crew Gameday Girl for Sunday’s Jet-Indianapolis game, certainly knows the feeling.
In 2010, her father, Juan, and brother, Simon, passed away during an accident.
Simon, a year older than Tiffany, was Tiffany’s best friend. He saw an advertisement in a local newspaper that year and was the one who informed his sister of Flight Crew auditions.
“When he showed me that ad, he told me, ‘Just do it. This is your dream and you’ve always wanted to do it,’ ” Tiffany said.
Tiffany, who'd been dancing since the age of 7, listened to Simon’s advice and attended the tryout. She entered the audition with a strong dance background having participated in tap, jazz and hip-hop, and even was a member of an all-star co-ed cheerleading squad growing up.
“My family would want to kill me,” she said of her early dancing memories, “because anytime we had a family gathering, I would put on a show and say, ‘Watch me do my cheer' or 'Watch me do my dance.' I was known as the choreographer. Everyone knew me from middle school to high school as the girl who would just make up dances on her free time.”
Despite her impressive dance qualifications, she didn’t earn a spot on the 2010 Flight Crew. Simon was saddened when he heard the news.
“He was like, ‘Well, obviously you’re going to try out next year because I know you don’t give up at anything you want,’ ” Tiffany said.
Shortly thereafter, the accident happened and Tiffany was left without two of the most important people in her life.
“When that happened, I kind of felt like my world just crumbled,” she said. “It took me a good three months just to get back on my feet.”
While Simon was her best friend and biggest supporter, it was Juan who introduced her to dance.
“My father is actually the dancer in the family,” she said. “My mom has not one rhythm. My dad was actually known as the king of disco during his 20s and that’s how he met my mother, at Studio 54. I get my dance rhythm from my father.”
Losing two family members possibly played the largest impact on Tiffany wanting to go back and try out for the Flight Crew in 2011. After taking three months away from the sport, she returned with a newfound focus and drive.
From Simon’s passing, she said, "I wanted to do this more for me and to show him, ‘This was your idea, I’m going to do this for you as well,’ because I know he would be so proud. Literally when I tried out my second year, I felt like everything fell into place and that it was meant to be.”
When Tiffany was making her dance comeback, she would go to a gym but not to workout. She spent her time inside a studio creating solo routines and taking hip-hop classes trying to get her choreography back to speed.
“I barely saw my friends,” she said. “It was like I was locked up, basically. I was so focused on what I wanted to do.”
As Flight Crew tryouts came around in 2011, Tiffany was prepared and ready. She knew what to expect this time. Although she admits she got sick during the final auditions because of exercising too hard and dieting, when it was all complete, her second tryout with the team produced a better result than the prior year had. She had earned a roster spot and her dream of becoming an NFL cheerleader had finally come true.
“To this day, I will always remember that feeling,” she said. “I had worked so hard for it. When they called my number, I knew all my hard work paid off.”
Now in her second year with the squad, Tiffany said her Flight Crew teammates are her new family. She said whenever things get tough or she gets nervous before a performance, she prays and asks Juan and Simon for guidance.
“My dad always knew that I would be a performer no matter what,” she said. “I knew my brother, being my best friend, he knew how much I wanted this. So it was just a big motivation for me.”
And if only her father and brother could have seen her perform at a Jets game, you wonder what type of reaction they would have given.
“I wish that every day,” she said. “But then I know it’s in the back of my head that they’re my guardian angels and they’re up there watching me.”
Watching and smiling down proudly.