Katie Heath

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“I feel like she was very nervous and timid for her interview. She was very cool. She was always the cool girl that I feel like I never was. The girl I was never brave enough to be. She didn’t care. She was like wear whatever, do whatever, say whatever. She was just ok with it all. That was always my really good impression of her.

Anytime I would give her any sort of critique or criticism, she would always take it and run with it. She would just want to be the best and want to do good. She would almost get down on herself for not “doing good” the first time but I would say “You’re good, you’re great. I just need you to do it this way.”

She was always so funny. She brought a lot of fun energy to the store. We teased her in a good way. She was always like the little sister. She always took it. She was fun about it. She was always just super chill, never the most energetic, never the most loud or crazy, neither am I. Everyone loved her. She was always the person with the funny meme, or a funny tikTok video, whatever it was, she was always comedic relief. Everyone was friends with her and thought she was the nicest person. No one ever had anything bad to say about her. I never got any complaints about her at all. Everyone was more like “Yay! Kiersten’s working today!!”. 

It was actually that night when I found out what had happened. I had just left work. I was only 10 minutes down the road & my co-manager at the time, called me. She wasn’t crying or anything, but she said she had just gotten a phone call and she told me they said that Kiersten died. So I asked who had called, but she didn’t know. I asked her what they said happened, but she didn’t know & didn’t ask. I said “‘So do we even know that they meant to call us? Maybe they meant to call somebody else. Are we sure it’s Kiersten Woodward?”’ she said “‘They said Kiersten Woodward & they asked for you.”’ She said “‘I think I blacked out after that”’. So for a moment I was driving & all these thoughts were going through my head. I just thought ‘there’s no possible way’. After her saying it out loud, I think my co-manager had the realization & she just lost it. She said “‘oh my God, I think it’s real”’. When stuff finally started coming out the next day, that’s when I knew for sure.

The whole dynamic of the store was so different after that. People were so affected, so crushed. As a manager, you want to be strong for them. These high school kids are coming to you & crying. As managers, our job is to be there. Everyone looks up to you. The whole dynamic of the store relies on you, that’s what I’ve always been taught. That’s what I’ve always done. This was the first time ever, I had to show weakness. There were days I would come into the store, clock in, & just have to leave. I couldn’t even be in there. I wanted to be strong for the kids that were there, but it was nearly impossible. Not anything that I could help or prevent.

There were days when other employees were upset & I’d have to be there for them. And then there were days I would be a wreck or be upset, then they’d be the ones helping me out. As a manager you just try to be strong, be the leader, set the example. That was just something I never had to deal with, being on the receiving end of the help.

After that, when people would clock out & leave for home, all of us would say “Goodbye! I love you. Drive safe.” Something that we never really did before. But we would say that every single time.”

On Black Friday, Kiersten was supposed to leave to go home on one of her breaks & take a nap, but she went shopping instead. She had come back and showed me a jacket she bought, & a vinyl that she was super stoked about! The mall closed at 10:00. We probably didn’t get out of the store until 12:30. We had a “factory line” set up to do custom orders at the end of the night. Kiersten was sitting on the floor. Before you knew it, she was sleeping on the hard tiled floor. I said “Oh my gosh, she fell asleep in like 5 seconds!” I said “Someone wake up Kiersten, she needs to help.” & they’re all like “No don’t wake her up! Just let her sleep.” So of course there’s a picture of her just snoozing on the floor back there. Later we woke her up, all the lights were out, we were all ready to leave and I said “Kiersten! Wake up!” She woke up & said “Shoes! Do we need to do more shoes?” and we’re like “No we’re done, you missed it!”

If I could have one more conversation with her, honestly, I’d probably thank her. She was the best kind of employee to have. A lot of times when you hire high school kids, it’s their first job & they just think it’s fun. They get too much into the culture. They think they’re entitled to a paycheck without doing anything. But she was not like that. She worked for every penny that she earned. She was everything that Journey’s tries to promote, everything that Journey’s tries to be. She was the perfect example of our culture & who we are as a company. We always joke around in the district, saying Journey’s is a land of misfit toys. If you don’t fit in anywhere else, theres a good chance you fit in with us. She was that person, for sure.

She was the perfect person to train, coach & was so fun to work with. She just made me, looking back now, realize the parts of the job that I love the most. Why I do what I do, why I work weekends & holidays. It’s people like Kiersten who are here to work hard, have a good time, and sell. I would probably thank her for being the kind, loving person that she was. For bringing that into work and not leaving that at the door. For bringing her full true self into work everyday.” #friendsofkier