Relatives and friends of two teenagers shot and killed this month by a fellow student in a California high school were mourned at packed memorial services over the weekend, both remembered by loved ones as vibrant young people with kind hearts and infectious smiles.
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Services for Dominic Blackwell, 14, and Gracie Anne Muehlberger, 15, were held on Saturday and Sunday and attended by many of their classmates who survived the Nov. 14 rampage at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita that left three others injured.
In a eulogy to his daughter, Bryan Muehlberger described Gracie as his “Cinderella.” His voice choked with emotion as he recalled dancing with her on the family’s kitchen floor and taking her out for ice cream.
“We could have never imagined that this life story — the one about my real-world Cinderella — that her clock would strike midnight at 7:38 a.m. on November 14, 2019,” the father told mourners gathered for the “celebration of life” at Real Life Church in Valencia, California.
Through tears and smiles, mourners were shown a video montage of Muehlberger laughing, singing and dancing with friends.
“We have what feels like a hole or emptiness in our chest that no words can easily describe. We keep asking ‘Why?'” Bryan Muehlberger said, according to ABC station KABC-TV in Los Angeles.
“Thank you Gracie for sharing your soul with all of us,” the father said.
Rev. Rusty George, the pastor of Real Life Church, described Muehlberger as a “joyous person.”
“She laughed infectiously,” George said. “She lived every moment to the fullest.”
On Sunday, loved ones packed a hotel ballroom in Santa Clarita to celebrate the life of Dominic Blackwell.
“Where do I even start with this kid?” Dominic’s grandfather, Gene Hall, said in a memorial talk to those gathered. “He was his grandmother’s shadow … his aunt Angie’s little goober. He was his mom’s peanut. He was a kid with an infectious laugh, a bright smile, and a kind heart,” Hall said.
“But don’t get it twisted,” he said, smiling and standing between two large photos of his grandson. “He was also snarky. He was sarcastic. He couldn’t keep his room clean to save his life.”
He said holidays and other special occasions for his family will no doubt be accompanied by the void Blackwell leaves behind, particularly on his birthday, Sept. 11, and the day of his death.
“In the weeks and months to come, there will be many firsts: The first family trip without Dominic; the first family photo without Dominic, the first family celebration; September 11th and November 14 will be especially painful for the family each year they roll around,” the grandfather said.
Police have yet to determine a motive for the deadly 16-second attack that claimed the lives of Blackwell and Muehlberger. Detectives reviewed video from the scene that showed the gunman in the quad of Saugus High School when he took a gun from his backpack, opened fire on the victims and fatally shot himself in the head, authorities said.
Addison Koegle, who was wounded in the shooting, was among those who spoke at Muehlberger’s service, according to the Orange County Register.
“I have never felt more pain physically and emotionally ever in my life,” 14-year-old Koegle said.
The girl also read what Muehlberger once wrote in her journal.
“You only have one life to live,” Addison recited, “so why not live it great, real and fill it with life’s memories and experiences?”