SPRING, Texas - A community gathered Saturday morning to honor and remember the six members of the Stay family allegedly slain by a former family member.
Friends, classmates, neighbors and loved ones attended the event at Lemm Elementary School organized by Klein ISD. Lone shooting survivor Cassidy Stay, 15, and her grandfather Roger Lyon were in attendance. Both expressed thanks to the public for the outpouring of support, as well as the first responders and medical staff that treated Cassidy over the last few days.
Cassidy spoke, quoting a line from Harry Potter, "'Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.' I know that my mom, dad, Bryan, Emily, Becca and Zach are in a much better place and that I'll be able to see them again one day."
"Without her courage and quick thinking, we might be mourning the deaths of 20 people today, including us, and nearly all of our children and grandchildren," Lyon said.
He added that Cassidy told him after she was shot she felt "as though angels were there with her, putting her hands over her mouth and whispering her to be quiet."
Cassidy played dead after accused gunman Ronald Lee Haskell, 33, shot her, her parents and four siblings while they were face down on the floor in what investigators say was an execution-style killing. When he left their house she called 911, and when emergency crews responded she was able to give them valuable information about Haskell's identity, what car he was driving and where he was headed next.
Deputies intercepted Haskell on the Lyon's street and he led them on a chase, eventually surrendering after an hours-long standoff. Haskell is facing a capital murder charge.
Cassidy suffered a skull fracture and lost part of a finger in the shooting. Investigators say she put her hand up when she was shot, which saved her life. She was discharged from the hospital Friday.
Many at Saturday's event were surprised to see Cassidy in attendance. Hillary Harrison attends the same church as the Stay family and had Cassidy in her class there. "I keep saying nobody else could have done this but Cassidy. She's just the brightest, sweetest girl I know... and I know that through this tragedy, she will come out the other side, a hero," said Harrison.
The theme of Saturday's event was "Stay Strong," incorporating the name of the family. Attendees released 600 balloons, 100 for each of the six deceased victims. Maria Thompson attended the event with her son, a former classmate of Emily Stay. "I wanted to show him that it's okay to be sad for his friend and it's okay to cry... and to support the family. It's a horrible thing," said Thompson.
Crisis counselors were also on hand to help the community cope with the tragedy.
Colored ribbons for slain family
Parents and children spent Friday putting up colored ribbons in the Spring neighborhood where the Stay family lived.
"I just got to thinking we should do that in our neighborhood because we were personal friends with the Stay family," said family friend Trisha Sites. "There were other families who knew them as well."
Even those who didn't know the Stay family have come forward to show support.
"Everybody needs their time to grieve," neighbor Jody Dellinger said. "Everybody needs their time to come to terms with what's going on."
At nearby Lemm Elementary, where two of the young children killed attended school, ribbon-wrapped trees marked the spot where the Celebration of Life ceremony was held Saturday.
Wednesday's crime has brought the already tightly-knit community even closer together.
"I've been brought to tears a few times," Dellinger said. "It's awesome to see the outpouring (of support) that's going on."
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