SINCE JULY 29, the families of Yvette Gonzalez, Felipe Hernandez, and Sabrina Rhoads have had to endure "a new normal" that no family should ever endure.
The three young friends were killed in a horrific Northeast Philadelphia car crash last summer that also severely injured a fourth pal, Bogdan Arutyunov.
For Erin Gonzalez, the new normal is about starting each day with the crushing knowledge that her funny and generous daughter, Yvette, will never make her laugh again. Some mornings, she can barely get out of bed.
For Jo-Jo Hernandez, it means figuring out who she is without the big smile and bigger hugs of her son Felipe. Is she still a mother to a child no longer here?
For Crystal Smith, sister of Sabrina Rhoads, the new normal means looking at the front passenger seat in her car - the one so frequently occupied by her sweet younger sibling - and being shocked anew by its emptiness.
And for Arutyunov, it's about trying to heal from catastrophic injuries that have derailed his life.
Their new normal is a nightmare. But at least it finally includes honest-to-God consequences for the two young men police say caused it.
Late Saturday evening, police at last arrested Christopher Bloomfield, 20, who was driving the 2007 Acura in which the victims were passengers on July 29.
Bloomfield was speeding that night in excess of 75 mph on Sandmeyer Lane, a notorious drag-racing strip in a Somerton industrial park. Police say he was racing a car driven by Ryan Farrell, 20, of Northeast Philly.
Bloomfield lost control on a tight bend, and his vehicle exploded into pieces when it hit a tree.
Rhoads and Gonzalez, both 17, were ejected from the Acura. Hernandez died in the wreckage. Arutyunov, 18, was thrown into the road, gravely injured.
Bloomfield, who managed to survive, fled the scene, leaving his friends behind like roadkill. Farrell took off, too. And for seven months, to the pain and bewilderment of victims' families, both young men roamed the city free of any consequences.
Bloomfield's behavior, they say, has been particularly offensive:
He posted a 360-degree "selfie" video on Instagram that appears to have been shot while he was driving. So much for being scared straight by his reckless action behind the wheel.
He also traded Instagram messages with Sabrina Rhoads' younger brother, who'd accused Bloomfield of showing little remorse for the crash.
"Look, I'm not arguing with anyone else about that tragic accident," Bloomfield responded callously to Tyler Rhoads. "I want to move on with my life and live my life. Staying sad and miserable won't fix anything."
By early January, it was all too much for Erin Gonzalez, Yvette's mom. She contacted the Daily News for help, her voice trembling with rage and anguish.
"He took my daughter, who was my best friend," she sobbed. "Why is justice taking so long?"
I wrote of the families' heartache and we put their story on the Jan. 21 cover of the Daily News. And that attention, say the families and at least one police insider, kicked the case into a higher gear. Within 24 hours, fresh eyes were on it. And by late Saturday, the wheels of justice finally moved as fast as that doomed Acura had.
Bloomfield has been charged with homicide by vehicle, aggravated assault, involuntary manslaughter, and a slew of other charges. Police have also issued a warrant for Farrell, 20, who will be similarly charged.
"I am so emotional right now," said Gonzalez on Sunday morning, her voice shaking as we discussed Bloomfield's arrest. "We've been waiting so long for justice. I didn't think this day would come."
Smith, Sabrina's sister, was calm and steely voiced when I reached her by phone.
"Call me bitter, I don't care," said Smith, who admits to hounding investigators "nonstop" in the last month. "My sister will never marry or have kids or spend time with her family. I don't want Bloomfield to have those things, either. I can't wait to see him in a courtroom. I want to hear what he has to say for himself."
Jo-Jo Hernandez, Felipe's mom, wept through our talk.
"This is the first step toward justice," she sighed. "We don't know what the outcome will be, whether there will be a trial or a plea. But there has to be consequences for Chris's choices that night. People always say, 'Oh, drag-racing is what kids do. It's fun. It's harmless.' Kids need to know what can happen."
Andrew Baratta, attorney for passenger Arutyunov, is relieved that families will finally get answers to questions that have tortured them since the wreck.
Arutyunov, especially, needs details. The crash put him in a coma and broke his pelvis, nose, femur, tibia, ankle, elbow, and orbit, or eye socket. It also punctured his lung, and tore a knee ligament and calf muscle. He faces more surgeries.
He has no memory of ever meeting Bloomfield and no idea how he wound up in the car that night. An entire chunk of his memory is gone. Now, with the charges, he might be able to fill in the gaps.
"I think every day about what has happened to me" and to his friends, he told me last month.
But does Bloomfield think about him and the others? Does Farrell?
Now that one has been charged, and the other - God willing - will soon be, the families may finally hear some answers.
Whether they also hear an apology, well, that might take an act of God, too.