“I was in Kindergarten, & I was shy starting out at new places. I only knew my cousin Marcus, who also went here. At recess the first day, I was like “I don’t know anyone”, so I just played with Marcus everyday. They played “boy games” & I didn’t want to do that everyday, but I wasn’t confident enough to go ask someone to play. One day I was walking out to recess and I was thinking to myself, as a Kindergartener, “Who am I going to play with because I’m not playing with the boys again?” We were in line right here, to go to recess, and Kiersten & I were standing right next to each other. I was dreading recess. She looked over at me, held out her hand, & we walked together, holding hands to recess. She was my first friend. I went home & told my mom “I made a friend! She held my hand & we played at recess!” We played everyday after that. It was nice because I didn’t have to do anything. She just decided for me that we would be friends. Every time I think about that moment, it gets me emotional..I have a binder of clippings & things from Kindergarten. I have a section of things from her & pictures of us. There’s a drawing of a flower from her. In the first grade, she got me a birthday card & when you opened it, it sang Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. It was my favorite birthday card that I ever got..Kindergarten & 1st grade were when we were closest. I remember us playing a game we made up called “Shark Boy & Lava Girl” with a couple other kids. It was basically just tag. We were in the same class a lot. I remember we both had Ms. Newman. I remember having Beach Day in Ms. Newman’s class. We both loved that because we got to wear our swimming suits to class..
My first sleepover, outside of family, was at Kiersten’s house. I remember that I was so nervous. I was pulling up in her driveway & I remember telling my mom “I can’t do this”. It was me, Katy (Schaffer), Lainie & Kiersten. I remember having my American Girl doll with matching pajamas with me. I think that was Kindergarten or 1st grade. That night was the first night Camp Rock was released on Disney. We were all like “Oh my gosh. Jonas Brothers!” & me & Katy liked Joe the best.”“But Kiersten liked Kevin. We just didn’t understand why she liked Kevin. We’d all run up to the tv when they were on screen.
One thing I remember about her in elementary is she would always cut her hair and dye it these crazy colors. In 4th grade, I remember she dyed her hair red. I thought it was so cool that she got to dye her hair red. She wasn’t sure if she liked it, but I really liked it. I always loved how her and Sydney (Barnett) would dress. I always thought “I could never wear that.” But they always wore the coolest outfits. I would be out shopping & think “Kiersten would love this outfit” but I was never brave enough to get it for myself.”
I remember in 6th grade, a bunch of girls at our school were mad at each other over something silly. So the girls split up. Half the girls were at the basketball court & half the girls were at the 4 square. We were all taking turns bugging each other, basically. But Kiersten was the one going in between each group of girls, trying to get both sides of the story of what happened. She was trying to be neutral. We were all so serious but I feel like Kiersten knew it wasn’t a big deal & it could be worked out. She was the peacemaker.
The Summer before 8th grade we both went to Camp Allendale. I remember walking in & seeing her (at camp) talking with her mom on whether she should stay at camp or go home. I sensed her nervousness about it. Gracie had invited her but then couldn’t be there. Me & Emilie convinced her to stay & I was so proud of her for staying. I remember thinking how awesome it was that she stayed, even though Gracie couldn’t be there. I really appreciated that she stayed with us. If it were me, I don’t know if I would’ve done that. I think that was when she got baptized. I remember that summer at camp we learned a lot & took so much away from it. I remember thinking it was pretty amazing that at the beginning of the week she wasn’t even sure if she wanted to stay & by the end she was getting baptized.
Junior High is when we starting talking less to each other. We still had a couple classes together in 8th grade, but we didn’t sit next to each other. There was never a time that we weren’t friends, though. In 8th grade Algebra, I heard her talking about switching schools and going to Herron. I said “Kiersten come here. What is this I’m hearing about you moving?” She said she wasn’t sure if she was going to do it because it was still pretty early in the school year. She explained what Herron was & it actually made a lot of sense for her. But I still didn’t want her to go. I also wanted all of us Waverly kids to graduate together but I thought “that school seems like it would be a good fit for her”. It made sense, but of course I didn’t tell her that. I remember thinking “If she wants to do it, she won’t be talked out of it”. “Later in the year, I remember her telling me she was definitely going. She reassured me that she would still hang out with all of us & still hang out in Mooresville. So I felt relieved..Freshman year, I remember seeing her at football games at Mooresville. We would say “hi” & give each other hugs. We had different friend groups at the time, so we still didn’t spend much time together. But I never felt like I was “out of the loop”. We still stayed in contact & updated each other on what was going on in our lives.
The summer before Sophomore year, we went to CIY together. It was a lot of fun. I remember at that time, I was obsessed with her Instagram. She had this perfect aesthetic. So I asked her if she’d take some cute photos of me while we were on this trip. She was like “Oh Olivia, I got you! Just model for me & I’ll get cute pictures of you”. We were walking & it was so hot outside & I was making this face. That’s when she snapped a photo of me & it’s such a terrible picture of me. We laughed & she was like “this is your aesthetic right here”. She took a photo of all of us in our matching shirts but when she showed it to us, I was bummed because she wasn’t in it since she took it. She was happy though. She was always behind the camera taking pictures of people. She did finally end up getting a good one of me on 4th of July.”
“Junior year I had AP Bio with Kiersten. We saw each other in the classroom & we were both glad to have a class together. I remember one day I was wearing an outfit that reminded me of Kiersten, I even told my mom that before I left for school that morning. I was kind of nervous about wearing it, but it was funny because as soon as I walked into AP Bio she said, “Olivia, I love your outfit!” & i just thought to myself, “Yes, Kiersten loves my outfit so that means it’s cute & trendy.” It made me feel accomplished because I really admired all those things about her. Her whole aesthetic was so cool. I loved her makeup looks as well, especially the one with the blue & yellow colors with the stars- that was my favorite look of hers. I saved that picture of her on my phone.
I always wanted a nose ring so when she got hers I asked her if it hurt. She said, “Yes, but not for very long.” I told her I wanted one & she immediately said, “Yes you need to get one- you would look so good with it.” I said I wasn’t sure if my parents would let me & she told me just to beg them. I ended up getting one a little over a month after she passed, so I’d like to think that she’d be proud of my nose ring now..We had just moved seats in AP Bio & it worked out that Kiersten & I were able to sit next to each other. We would just talk to each other about everyday things for a bit. Most of the time it was about how hard & fast pace biology was for us. The Friday before her passing she didn’t do the homework & I told her she could copy mine. She said, “Oh my gosh thank you so much, I will bring you cookies on Monday.” I told her she didn’t have to do that but she insisted. The following Monday she walked into class & she immediately looked at me & said, “Ok I don’t have your cookies but I promise you I will have them tomorrow- I had a busy weekend. Don’t think I forgot about them because you will get some, they just aren’t here today,” I told her she was fine, I really didn’t mind! We were about to take a test & when we saw the paper we both looked at each other & said, “We’re going to fail this,” that was my last interaction with her.
“That evening I was in the living room with my mom & brother. Earlier I had gotten a text from Gracie in our youth group chat saying “Please pray for my friend she got in an accident.” I remember I said a quick prayer & didn’t think much of it not realizing that Gracie & I have over half of the same friends. I got a snapchat from my friend Hannah later that night, it said, “Did Kiersten die?” I just thought she was confused. Then I got another text from Ethan, another good friend of mine, asking if I was alright. I said “Yes?” I remember thinking “Ok why would he ask me that?” Then shortly after that I got a text from Gracie explaining that Kiersten passed away. I read it twice. Then everything made sense. I texted Ethan back & said, “No.” I looked up from my phone & I said, “Mom, Kiersten died.” She said, “What?” Then I said it again aloud & I just lost it. My mom sat there hugging me while I bawled my eyes out. I finally calmed down a little, but I was still trying to catch my breath & I started thinking about how there were so many people so much closer to her than I was. I began thinking about Jill, Andy & Lanie & I lost it again. I thought, “If I’m this hurt I can’t even imagine what they’re going through.” My friend Emilie Reynolds called me & we talked on the phone. We just couldn’t even believe that it was real.
Gracie sent us a text saying we could all come over to her house that night to be together. I got my things together & drove over there. Once I got to Gracie’s it was quiet but I felt better being surrounded by people who loved her. We had a sleepover at Gracie’s that night & when I woke up in the morning & I was like, “Oh, this sucks. I have to live life.” .As soon as I got to school I was just so mad. I was so mad about everything. I saw the banner to sign in honor of Kiersten & it made me annoyed that it was even there because that banner shouldn’t even exist. During choir our whole class went to sign the banner & I didn’t sign it because I decided not to sign something that shouldn’t exist. I regret not signing it now, but I just couldn’t because it should not have happened.
I went to an emotionally dark place for a while after that. I don’t want to blame it on her death, but I just wasn’t myself for a while. It sent me to a place that wasn’t me. Then in the Spring I started to deal with that. I was like, “Oh, shoot. What am I doing? That isn’t me.” I finally breathed in & breathed out & started dealing with things. My loved ones helped me find myself & reminded me to stay true to who I truly am. It was such a hard time, but I know that I grew & learned a lot about life, myself & God.
Kiersten was a motivator & such an encouraging person. She was always there to say, “You’ve got this!” or “You can do anything!” she was like that for everyone. In fact, after I made it through my dark phase I decided to try to be that person for others & do the same thing but it’s hard! It’s hard to remember to give compliments & to always be uplifting to others, but she showed me how important it is to help everyone.
If I could talk to her today I’d say how thankful I am to have known her. I would thank her for always giving me a boost of confidence when I needed one. She was always sincerely kind & genuine.”