Lori Smith

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“I met Kiersten when I started working at Waverly Elementary, Gracie had just moved schools her 6th-grade year. Kiersten and Gracie were friends right off the bat. They had a lot in common & really hit it off. As the year went on, they just continued to get closer. Kiersten would do a lot of stuff with us & Gracie would hang out with her family as well. The first time Gracie asked to hang out with Kiersten, I wasn’t familiar with the family. With me being a mom on staff, I asked people about the Woodward family, because I am “that” parent. Of course, I heard nothing but great things. I’m also that parent that always has to meet the parents, so we met them and of course, who wouldn’t like them? Once you meet them you know they are so great.”

My first impression of Kiersten was that she was just the sweetest & kindest person. I never heard her say a negative word about anyone. She was so funny. Her and Gracie would be so goofy & they just didn’t care. They would take pictures & sometimes it would be hard to get a serious one because they were just so goofy all the time. They both loved music. Kiersten did guitar lessons & Gracie started taking lessons as well. The two of them went with their teacher to a nursing home and played together. It was cool that they could do that. Kiersten had more experience on the guitar than Gracie did, but when they played together I was impressed.

Kiersten always acted around me as if she were my own child. She never seemed uncomfortable, she just fit right in. She would hang out with our family as if she was apart of it. When my dad was in the hospital she would go with us. She was always happy to come along & my parents always enjoyed her visits. When she came with us on vacation it was just like she was part of the family. It was just easy & we all felt like we could be ourselves.

There was no one else like Kiersten. She was one of Gracie’s kindest friends. She always wanted everybody to get along & be kind to others, even at the junior high age. It was odd because everyone is so awkward and there is often a lot of drama, but I do not remember any drama with her.” “By this time Gracie & Kiersten’s relationship definitely got stronger. They seemed pretty inseparable. Gracie had a best friend at Northwood, & also had Kiersten as her best friend from Waverly, so she kind integrated those friendships together in seventh grade. I remember thinking that three friends from different schools would cause issues, but I was totally wrong. Those three girls would hang out all the time & no one would ever feel left out. They all just loved each other. Their friend group continued to grow & they all just clicked. It made me happy to see her with a good group of friends that I did not have to worry about. They’re great kids.”

“Freshman year was when Kiersten decided to go to Herron. I understood why she was going there because that was definitely her realm. It seemed like a good fit for her & I knew she would love it, but for us, I was sad. She had spent so much time with us & I was bummed that she wasn’t coming to my school. Gracie & Kiersten remained friends & would still get together. They went to concerts a lot. I don’t think Gracie has gone to concerts with more people than Kiersten. There are great memories of that. Kiersten’s family took Gracie to New York that year. Kiersten would still come & support Gracie’s choir events. She would even come & watch Gracie cheer & made her little posters. She was still a supportive friend, even though she was not in Gracie’s daily life.

Sophomore year, they both went to prom. The day after prom, Jill & I rented a van & we took all of them to Kings Island. We dropped them off & Jill and I spent the day together, hanging out near King’s Island. That’s a great memory that I have. The girls got to spend the day together & I got to spend the day with Jill.

When she decided to come here her junior year, Gracie & I were thrilled. It was great seeing her at school again, & watching her & Gracie get closer again. She would pop in my office & sometimes need a little reassurance or even a hug. Jill even said to me, “She’ll probably come & see you some.” I think Kiersten had a little anxiety so it was a big move to come back here where there was uncertainty. I loved that she felt comfortable to come see me & get a hug. She wasn’t sad. I think it just kind of perked her up. She would come give me a hug & say, “ I love you.” and I’d say, “I love you.” She was always affectionate. She had always been that type of person. I’d be in the hall having to see someone or take something somewhere & out of the blue I would hear, “ I love you Lori!” & I looked over & there was Kiersten. That was just so sweet, because how many high school kids are going to walk down the hall and tell an adult they loved them? But she didn’t care. She was just Kiersten. She was never afraid to be herself.”

“On the day of the accident, Gracie & I were in the Chick-Fil-A drive thru when Andy called. Gracie answered & he told us Kiersten had been in an accident & he asked us to pick Lainie up from school. I told him that we were in Plainfield but Rodney could get her. Jill was on her way to the hospital & Andy was on his way home from Chicago. I could tell that Gracie was worried & I told her that she was fine. They took Kiersten to St. Francis Mooresville & that’s not a trauma hospital. Gracie & I got there & let them know we were there for Kiersten, but we weren’t family so they couldn’t give us any information. The cop kept pacing back and forth. That’s when I started having a bad feeling. I thought surely not, she’s here at Mooresville, she’s got to be okay. Then Jill walked in & her sister Sue came walking in behind her & next thing I know is that they take the four of us into a room. We all sat down on & the man said, “I have to go get the doctor.” I could just see in Jill’s face, she was just so scared. We were all scared. I thought “it can’t be something bad because Kiersten cannot be gone.” They eventually came & said “Your daughter was in an accident & her heart stopped & they couldn’t get it going again.”

It was unbearable. My brother died at 20 & I just remember my parents. It was horrible to lose my brother, but to see my parents, it was the worst feeling ever. It felt like I was reliving that again. I wanted to be strong for Jill. I remember making phone calls. I needed to let the school know, so I called Dr. Disney & told him what happened. The school had to be prepared for all of these kids. A ton of people were coming into the hospital. When Andy was almost there was when Gracie & I left, because I wanted them to be alone with each other.

When we got home, all these girls started showing up. The whole living room was just full of girls that all came over. They were crying & talking. They stayed all night. They were all hurting. They were just there supporting each other. It was a rough night.

It still seems unreal. I still feel like I should see her in the hall or that she is going to pop in here and say “Hi”.

Before the accident, Andy would periodically text & say, “Hey, let’s have a family dinner night.” We’d just hang out & eat together. After the accident, I remember one day I was just sitting there & I got a text & it was Andy. He said “Hey, family dinner night?” We’ve had probably three dinner nights since the accident. I love that we still do that.

Watching Gracie go through something like this at such a young age is really hard. This will affect her whole life & she’ll be sad about what Kiersten is missing. I loved the fact for her senior pictures Gracie included Kiersten. For Gracie’s senior jeans, she made an area that’s dedicated to Kiersten. I love that, but I sure wish they were doing it together.

I think Gracie made a difference in Kiersten’s life as much as Kiersten did in hers. Gracie was there to help lead her. Gracie should always remember her impact on Kiersten’s life as well as Kiersten’s impact on her.

It’s easy to look at someone & judge them without even knowing who they are, but because of Kiersten, I am better about not doing that. You have to consider people’s backstories because you don’t know what they’re going through. Because of Kiersten’s heart, I think about having more compassion for people. She definitely inspires that in me.

If I could say one more thing to Kiersten it would be “I love you” & I’d give her a big hug.”#friendsofkier