Updated: December 29, 2013 at 10:37 am
The stories shared during a candlelight vigil Saturday night for Kiana Rae O'Neil, didn't reveal any details about the tragedy behind the 14-year-old's death. They focused on her generosity and kindness. - More than 100 family members and friends gathered at Springs Ranch Elementary School, 4350 Centerville Drive in eastern Colorado Springs, less than a mile from her mother's home, in the 4000 block of Ascendant Drive, where she was shot Monday by her stepfather, who told police he mistook her for an intruder entering the house through a window.
Those who gathered at the vigil did so to remember O'Neil for her capacity to love, eagerness to forgive and constant laughter.
"The outpouring of support in this community as well as the hometown I grew up in is just amazing," said her mother, Monica Meade, who arrived at the vigil after a long drive home from her daughter's funeral near Alamosa. "It is a testament to Kiana's love for everybody. We can all learn from that. The day after this tragic accident, I decided I was going to live her life. I was going to love like she loved and I was going to forgive first."
O'Neil's stepfather, 29-year-old Daniel Meade, is a decorated Fort Carson officer who told police he shot his stepdaughter thinking she was a burglar. O'Neil later died from her wounds at the hospital.
It's up to District Attorney Dan May to decide whether to press charges in the shooting.
Friends at the vigil recalled trips to Lake Powell, staying up all night giggling, silliness, and above all love.
O'Neil was a freshmen at Vista Ridge High School in Falcon School District 49.
She was a regular at CrossFit, where she participated in fitness classes with her mother five days a week.
Friends from the classes recalled a joyful teen who helped get them through tough workouts.
Others recalled O'Neil's love for her younger sisters and the children she baby-sat.
After sharing several memories, those who had gathered released purple balloons. Some signed a framed photo of a laughing O'Neil with writing over it proclaiming "laughter is the sound of the soul dancing."
O'Neil's father, Gary O'Neil, who lives in Arizona, also spoke during the vigil.
"To know that my daughter was loved this much, it helps," he said, fighting back tears. "Just love each other. That's the biggest thing. Laugh."
Monica Meade said O'Neil would have loved everyone coming together, united by so much love.