The 15-year-old lone survivor of a shooting that left her parents and four siblings dead in their suburban Houston home bravely thanked the community Saturday for their support — and said she finds solace in knowing she will see her family again.
“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light,” said Cassidy Stay, quoting a line from the “Harry Potter” series at a “celebration of life” gathering at Lemm Elementary School in Spring, Texas.
Cassidy, who survived the shooting Wednesday by playing dead when a bullet grazed her head, spoke to more than 400 people who came to honor her family's memory.
The teen said she's comforted knowing her parents, two brothers and two sisters are “in a much better place, and that I'll be able to see them again one day.”
The teen also thanked hospital staff who treated her after she was critically injured by alleged gunman Ronald Lee Haskell, her ex-uncle. She was released from the hospital on Friday.
Cassidy's parents, Stephen and Katie Stay, and four children — Brian, Emily, Rebecca and Zachery — were each fatally shot in the back of the head by Haskell, police said. The slain children ranged from ages 4 to 13, and two of them attended Lemm elementary, reported NBC affiliate KPRC.
Although Cassidy was injured, she was able to identify the shooter as her ex-uncle and warn police that he might be headed for her grandparents’ house to continue his deadly spree, police said.
Haskell, the ex-husband of Katie Stay's sister, has been charged with capital murder for the six slayings. Investigators in Harris County, Texas, haven’t said what specifically triggered the rampage, but believe it was part of a domestic dispute.
“We continue to be in awe of how she was able to save us,” her maternal grandfather, Roger Lyon, said during the ceremony. "Without her courage and quick thinking, we might be mourning the death of 20 ... people today."
"I'll be able to see them again one day.”
But Lyon also expressed the pain he felt after losing four grandchildren, his daughter and his son-in-law. “It is difficult to imagine how we will ever move on,” he said.
After the grieving family members spoke, 600 balloons — 100 for each of the people lost — were released into the nearly cloudless Texas sky.
Counselors were also on hand at the vigil to help the community cope with the shocking loss, KPRC reported. The theme of the memorial was "Stay Strong," incorporating the family's name.
"We're here as a community to show support," said Rachel Petrovich, who works at the school. Her 8-year-old daughter wrote, “Forever in our hearts,” on a piece of paper and attached it to a purple balloon.
On another balloon, a simple, “We love you all,” was written by 9-year-old Leah Murray, who was in choir with Emily. “She was a sweet girl. She always smiled,” Leah said.
Tears filled Cassidy's eyes as she watched the balloons and the messages of support ascend.
— Reporting by Deborah Strauss
First published July 12 2014, 9:55 AM