More than 200 people, many wearing brightly colored unicorn headbands, gathered in front of Woodcrest Junior High in Ontario Wednesday evening to remember a young friend who former teacher Kristyn Essig described as a “bouncing ball of sunshine.”
The memorial was for Amy Nguyen, 14, and her sister, Kaitlyn, 4 months old, who were allegedly killed by their mother on Aug. 20 at their Ontario home.
Amy had attended nearby Liberty Elementary and Woodcrest, both in the Chino Valley school district.
A special education student, she had just started her freshman year at Chino High.
On Wednesday, the base of Woodcrest’s marquee was surrounded by posters, flowers and colorful balloons, left by students, parents, educators and the community. On the marquee were the words “Amy and Baby K, Now Our Guardian Angels. #LoveforAmy.”
The memorial, organized by Woodcrest leadership students and Woodcrest teacher and Associated Student Body advisor Patrick Lindsey, featured more than 50 speakers, including dozens of students who said that Amy lit up their world with her colorful fashions and upbeat and friendly attitude.
Throughout the memorial, many in the crowd sobbed and hugged each other.
“This campus is hurting,” Mr. Lindsey said. “We lost a wonderful person.” He recalled coming to school in a bad mood and instantly getting cheered up when Amy gave him a big hug.
Ms. Essig, who taught Amy at Woodcrest, described her first meeting with the young girl. “I saw someone in a bunch of colors, and I thought this is awesome.” She went on to describe Amy’s penchant for colorful bows, headbands, skirts and bracelets, often worn in layers.
Others, mostly students, remembered how she was always happy and kind, always complimenting them on their clothes. “She never, ever ran out of compliments,” a student said.
One student, who came to Woodcrest from Rancho Cucamonga, remembered her anxiety being lifted when Amy approached her and said “who are you? I don’t know you.” The girl told Amy her name and Amy never forgot it.
A parent described how Amy made friends with her autistic son and “took care of him.” The young man, sitting cross-legged at the memorial, expressed his frustration at the loss of his friend by raising his arms up and down.
A noon ground supervisor from Liberty said the young girl was known on campus as “Sweet Amy.”
Several of the students said Amy adored her baby sister and only missed school once to help her mother care for Kaitlyn. The students said they believe Kaitlyn would also be a bright light like her older sister if she had been able to grow up.
A young mourner said Amy would pretend to be caught in a spider web and would ask students to use their superpowers to free her.
“You were a light in this very dark world,” the girl said of Amy.
Diane May, who taught Amy at Liberty, said Amy would always notice when a classmate was not in school and be concerned. “She was what we all want to be: happy. We enjoyed her. She was a happy spirit,” the teacher said.
“What Amy did for you, pay it forward,” Woodcrest Principal Don Jones told those gathered to remember Amy and her sister.
“We need to show love for her by being kind to others,” Ms. May said.
At the end of the memorial, Mr. Lindsey told the students to talk to their parents, teachers or counselors if they are having a hard time dealing with Amy and her sister’s death.