Emily Arnold

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Kiersten & I had mutual friends freshman year at Herron. We didn’t talk much at all but we’d see each other and say hi. I knew her as the one person who was friends with everyone. I definitely wanted to be her friend, but was a nervous freshman who didn’t really want to branch out.

The day we did schedule pickups for Sophomore year, I was with a friend who was a mutual friend of Kiersten. We were all nervous about getting our schedules. We were walking around looking at our schedules with other people. I noticed I had drawing 2nd period & knew whoever I had that class with, I’d also have lunch with. We were walking outside, & we noticed Kiersten. She was about to leave with her mom. We were like “Wait! Let us see your schedule”. When we looked, we noticed we had drawing class together 2nd period. We were like “Awesome! We can be friends!” I was really excited because I’d have a class with someone I kind of knew. That’s when we really started to become friends. The beginning of sophomore year.

Once school started, we sat by each other in drawing class. It was a really easy connection because she had mutual friends & we started talking about things that we both really liked. We both knew we had an interest in art, which was exciting. The biggest connection between both of us was that we enjoyed art & looked forward to it everyday. In this class, I could find her passions for it & see her excitement for art. It made me more excited about it. She was genuinely passionate about it. It really inspired me. Before taking that art class, art was just something I liked to do. But now – I do it all the time.

I knew she was a big music fan, too. We’d listen to music together sometimes in class. She’d always play 5 Seconds of Summer, which is music I’d listened to in late elementary/early junior high years. Whenever I thought back to the music I listened to in those years, I’d always cringe. But Kiersten would play it & still get so excited about it, which I thought was really interesting. So now when I think back to what I listened to when I was younger, I think about it in a much better memory.

Her fashion sense was definitely something that first got my attention. She would always come in class wearing some cool pair of shoes or jacket & I’d say “Where’d you get that?” & she’d say “The goodwill, by my house!”. I always loved her cool colored socks & the vans she wore. Another similar interest we had was makeup. I’d love when she’d do themed makeup on holidays. I thought it was so cool that she just went for it! I loved her hair, & how much she’d change it. I admired how bold she was & she wasn’t afraid to take on any kind of judgement.

She was very goofy. She’d come into class and say “Did you see what I posted?” and you’d go look and it’d be a cat wearing sunglasses or something. It was just a very, very goofy sense of humor.

We would do a new project every 1-2 weeks. There’d be projects that she’d be really excited about. But then there’d be ones that she’d hate and want to just get them over with. She’d be really self-conscious about it. Which I know is totally normal. But I’d just want to shake her and tell her how amazing she was. I loved everything that she did because she’d put so much into it. Her projects were very individualistic, if that makes sense. She did a picture of a friend on a bridge. She had taken the photo, so she was just excited to create something from that photo. She also loved the metamorphic one. I believe it went from a heart to a flower. There were so many phases of loving the process & hating it or feeling less than confident about it. When she would struggle, she’d ask for Miss O’Brien’s (Earnest) help. Miss O’Brien (Earnest) played a huge role in supporting Kiersten & being encouraging to her.

We didn’t hang out much outside of school & school events. We’d always talk about hanging out, but it just got away from us. That is something I really regret. I guess we just thought we had all the time in the world.

We had English together right after Drawing. So we’d go from Drawing to lunch & then to English together. Right when they’d dismiss us from lunch, we’d run to the bathroom to try & be the first to get there. That was our routine every ‘A’ day. Because we were both in choir, we’d see each other at all the choir events & concerts. She especially loved Mr. Riley. Anytime she would see him she’d say “Mr. Riley!!!”.She was so excited to be able to go to prom sophomore year. She talked about it a lot. When she was about to go shopping for her dress, I had told her to send me pictures so I could see every dress she tried on. She sent me one picture. It was a picture of the yellow dress & she said “I found the perfect dress”. She looked so cute in it.

There would be times we wouldn’t see each other for a few days because of how block scheduling works. But when we’d get to see each other again, we’d always catch up on each others lives. There was a time I was going through a hard time with a guy.

I was really upset, so Kiersten & I went to the bathroom & talked. At the end of the conversation I told her I was sorry for ranting about this guy. She said “This is what I’m here for.” So I appreciate that she wasn’t just there for the good things. If she was having a bad day too, we would go to the bathroom & talk.

She started hinting about going back to Mooresville. But I didn’t think she really would. People would say they were transferring out of Herron all the time, but they never did. But one time, I said “What art class are you going to take next year?” but she’d say “Emily…..” and then I was like “Oh. right.” and thought about how she said she was transferring. Close to the end of Sophomore year, I knew she was truly leaving. She didn’t try out for any choirs for junior year, so I knew it was really happening. I don’t think it really hit me that she really wasn’t going to be here. We lost touch a little bit after sophomore year ended. We snap chatted all the time, but we didn’t talk much. I don’t think I had my license at the time, so that was a huge barrier in us seeing each other.

The night of the accident, someone posted something on snap chat that started to circulate. It was a post about a “Kiersten” and something that alluded to the fact that this person had died. So I started texting some friends to see if they had seen it. I was really confused & scared. Rumors go around all the time, but I started thinking maybe I read it wrong or maybe it’s a Kiersten I didn’t know. I texted my friend, Athena, who I knew was really close with Kiersten. I said “I’m really scared. What’s going on?” & she replied “She’s gone”. I said “Are you sure?” and she said that she had gotten a call from one of her friends at the hospital. She just said she was in a really bad accident, & that she was at the hospital & that her heart stopped. I couldn’t do anything. I just went downstairs & found my mom & I told her what happened. I just sat & hugged my mom all night.

The next morning, I had NHS. I just knew I couldn’t miss school because I’d just lay in bed all day. I just felt like I needed to be around all of her other friends. So the two people that were the sponsors at the NHS meeting were Mr. Stark & our art teacher Ms. O’Brien. Mr. Stark was her advisory teacher when Kiersten went here. I think everyone was trying hard to not think about it. I think we were all avoiding it because we didn’t want it to be real. At that point, it could’ve still been a rumor. But then Mr. Stark said “I just wanted to let you know that Kiersten was in a really bad accident last night & she died.” That was the moment that it really hit me. I just broke down in front of the entire NHS meeting. It was the worst thing of my whole life. Most of the people in there did not know her. There were just a few other people in there that were friends with her. So everybody was just watching us with sympathy & very nice about it. Everyone was there for support. We were all just trying to get through the day. I felt like I was in a dream.

I think the people that were friends with her, even if we weren’t friends at all before, we are friends now. We have been each other’s support system.“Even the people that didn’t know her seemed to be there for the people that were friends with her. The school counselors as well did so much for us. I spent that whole week with counselors. Me & Kiersten’s other friends. This definitely brought all of Kiersten’s friends together. We’re really close now. We say “I love you” more. It’s built a stronger community.

The celebration of life was another time that this all really hit me. I saw the Mooresville school bus there & saw the other choir members & her other friends. I remember stepping in there & seeing all of her art work hung up & I just remember being here in class watching her make those pieces of art work. It was just another point that was really hard.

Kiersten inspired me to be a kinder person. Also, I don’t think I would’ve been involved in as much. Choir & art were things that I liked but now it’s a part of me. I don’t think they would be as important to me if it weren’t for her. So I want to keep continuing doing those things. It’s a way I can think of her & be happy..Honoring her life would mean making sure that the people I care about are safe & that I tell them that I love them. I just want to want to do things that make people happy & make sure they feel supported & loved. She was such an amazing person. She was so kind, even if she was in a bad mood. She’d still be nice. She wouldn’t lash out at people. It’s just amazing. I just admire how kind she was & that she was that person that anybody could look to for support & kindness.

If I could talk to her again, I would be more meaningful with what I say. I would tell her “I love her”.

I want to share something with her Mooresville friends. Kiersten would ALWAYS talk about them. She’d always show me pictures of them & tell me stories about them. That was another example to me of how much love she had for a lot of people. She wouldn’t let her coming to Herron, separate her from those relationships.