Samantha Shelton

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“I met Kiersten my first day of freshman year at Herron. We sat across from each other in 2D art and we sat right next to each other on the first day of Latin. You know it’s really funny because she had purple hair at the time. I was like “she’s so different, she’s so cool”.

Sophomore year we started talking a lot & started hanging out quite a bit more. We started going on coffee dates, taking pictures, and we had a lot of similar interests. Photography, doing fun make up & pretending like we were little models. That was our thing. I feel like we had a lot less classes together sophomore year, so we wanted to find time outside of school to hang out.

That same year, Libby & I did a show together. I remember Kiersten saying “Oh my gosh you’re in a show with my friend Libby and you guys have to become friends!” and then we did! We all started hanging out together. Kiersten would come see us in shows up until the very beginning of junior year when Libby & I were in ‘Carrie’.

One of my favorite memories with Kiersten was the Billie Eilish concert summer before junior year. It was me, her, Libby & Ross. We all wore matching camouflage pants. The interstate was closed, so we had to take back roads. The whole time Kiersten was freaking out. She was like “We’re going to be late! Can you go faster? We have to get there!”

It ended up that one of my friends had a fast pass to get us to the front and center. When we got there, he got people to let us through. It was really fun! Afterwards we drove to Kroger & all got pints of ice cream, went back to my house, sat around my kitchen table, & ate the entire pints.”

“We had this inside joke. Whenever we would talk to each other we would always say ‘I love you’ and the other would always say ‘I love you more’ & she would say ‘that’s not possible!’ So we decided that we would take turns on who would say “I love you more.”

We went to a game and Ross had on this backpack and he took it off & set it down. I was sitting next to Kiersten & Ross just started taking moon pies out of the bag and handing them to Kiersten. He said “Hey look, I brought you something!” There were like hundreds of moon pies. It was so funny!

One thing that really meant a lot to me about her was that she cared as much for me as I did for her. Our relationship was definitely a two-way street. Anytime I was going through anything, she was just there to help immediately. She knew what to do & what to say. I could tell her if I had a bad day & she would always say “Let’s go have coffee so we can talk about it.”

It was really so special to me because I feel like a lot of teenagers get so stuck in themselves. They worry so much about what’s going on in their lives that they don’t often focus on other people or how they can help them. I feel like we both just cared so much about each other.

I had just taken a break from social media. I was sitting on my bed, & I was about to go to sleep. I got a text from Ross that said “I really need to call you. I just need to let you know that I love you & I need to talk to you. Before I could even respond, he called me. He said “Sam I need to tell you something.” He said “Kiersten was in a car accident & she didn’t make it.” I sat up in bed and I almost got mad at him. I said “Are you sure? Don’t. That’s not funny. Don’t tell me that.” He said “No. It’s true.” I don’t know exactly what was going through my head, but I stood up & I went downstairs & I wasn’t crying. As soon as I got to the bottom of the stairs, I had to figure out how to tell my parents. I just started crying. My mom says that she’ll never forget that. I was crying so hard that she thought I was hysterically laughing. It was a whirlwind. I went to sleep & didn’t go to school the next day. I slept all day”.

“There’s a lot of things that I spend time thinking about or obsessing over that just don’t matter at all. You realize that when someone so close to you is gone. When the News interview aired, I just remember being so gutted. I see things like that all the time on the news. People dying or tragedies. Then, I saw myself & that was one of the hardest things. It’s something you think “that’ll never happen to me, that’ll never be someone that I love.” Seeing faces of people that I love, seeing myself talking about my friend who is now gone, it’s just so difficult. I didn’t want that to be the truth. That was when it hit that it was real.

I’ve started writing music a lot more. I’ve kind of used it as a coping mechanism. Obviously with something like this, your head can go to really dark places. I kind of use music as my vessel for that pain. I can put my thoughts on paper. It can make me feel release from everything that I’m holding inside. Also anyone else who’s going through it with me, can find themselves in my words & in what I have to say about the pain & identify with it. Maybe that can help them too. That’s kind of how I’ve coped with the loss.

Two days before the accident, I sent Kiersten a message & at the end she said “I love you.” & I said “I love you too.” The last thing I ever said to her was “I love you” which is just so special to me because it’s just such a good ending.

In order to live a life that would honor her, I’d have to take pride in who I am. Be more vulnerable. Be someone that people can identify with, be kind & show gratitude every second that I can. That’s who she was. She would want me to love who I am, more of the way that she loved me & not care so much about my own perceptions of myself.

I would tell her that I love her & that I would work as hard as I can to keep her alive even though she’s not physically here. I would tell her that I will keep sharing my music with the world, keep living every day to the fullest & live the way she would want me to live – to be the person that I know in my heart I can be. I’d tell her that I’m going to get through this & you’re going to be okay. It’s all going to be okay.”