By Sarah Whitman
Alexa Rae Ulrich will not be forgotten.
More than 600 people gathered Friday night at Wiregrass Ranch High School for a vigil remembering Alexa, 15, her little sister Carlie, 5, and their parents, Jeff and Ronni.
The family was killed last week when their single-engine plane inexplicably crashed into an Arizona high school. They were headed to the Grand Canyon for vacation. Instead, the week ended with a funeral service at Congregation Kol Ami in Tampa.
Alexa, known to her friends as Lexi, was an honor-roll student, a cheerleader and a cross country athlete. She was well known for her upbeat attitude and infectious smile. Classmates described her as happy, kind and full of energy.
“She was the most amazing girl I’ve ever met,” said David Villarreal, one of the students who helped organize Friday’s vigil. “It’s only fitting we do something to honor her and her family. They meant so much to all of us.”
Villarreal, who wore a shirt reading ‘Save me a spot in Heaven,’ was one of several people to speak at the flashlight vigil. Wiregrass principal Raymond Bonti, teachers and friends stood one by one at a podium looking out at the football field. They spoke about the family and what they meant to the community. They spoke about Alexa and what she meant to the Wiregrass alma mater.
Alexa’s friend and Wiregrass graduate Nicole Phillips, struggled to speak through her tears.
“We were best friends,” Phillips said. “Her family was like my second family…Before Lexi left she was making a scrapbook with pictures of us and she said she would finish it would she got back. It was going to be filled with pictures of us from summer. Now it will be filled with pictures from tonight.”
Principal Bonti remembered Lexi’s school spirit and passion for cross country.
“In a school with more than 2,000 students, everyone knew Lexi for all the right reasons,” he said. ”She loved life, school, cross country and cheerleading. Most of all she loved her friends and her family. Her ever shining light will live in all of us forever.”
Teacher Frank Shearrow also shared his memories of Lexi.
“Lexi lived it to its fullest,” he said. “Her smile was untamed by the troubles of this world. When she left school for the summer, the last thing I said to her was ‘I’ll see you later’ Lexi knew I didn’t like goodbyes. So tonight I won’t say goodbye, I’ll say ‘I’ll see you later’. ”
Class of 2010 graduate Jack Whidden, who co-organized the vigil, remembered Lexi by talking about the good times.
“Thank you Lexi for always making my day brighter,” he said. “Thank you for being an amazing friend that will never be replaced.”
On the field, mourners held pink balloons given out before the ceremony. The balloons were released into the sky at sunset. As they drifted away into the clouds, the people below looked up.
“We’ll see each other again Lexi,” Villarreal said at the podium. “We just have to wait. One day, we’ll all get back in touch. Rest in paradise.”
Under a clear night sky, the flashlights were turned on and shined as bright as Alexa’s smile.
At Round Valley High School in Arizona, where there were no injuries due to the crash, the school has started a scholarship fund in Alexa’s honor.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.