By Justin Udo and Trang Do
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Dozens of somber family members, friends and classmates gathered for a vigil Wednesday night at West Catholic High School in Philadelphia in memory of 18-year-old Akyra Murray, a standout student and basketball star, who was killed during the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
“It was humbling, you know, because they had pictures of Akyra,” said Shawna Williams, an alum of West Catholic High School. “It was sad, but you could feel her spirit come around encouraging them to still be strong and still fight and hold up and it’s okay.”
“She did everything the right way through how she lived, and everybody just saw,” said Calvin Pressley, a West Catholic sophomore. “She stood up.”
The private service was held in the school’s auditorium, where heads were hanging low and tears were rolling down the faces on those who attended.
The service was especially emotional for Akyra’s basketball teammates. Monique Barracks described her former teammate as not only a standout player, scoring 1,000 points in her high school career, but a standout friend.
Her final actions show that. Akyra, her friend Patience Carter and cousin Tiara Parker went to Pulse Nightclub together that fateful night.
When gunfire erupted, Akyra and Patience made it outside safely, but went back in to find Tiara, who was missing. All three were shot and Akyra died from her injuries.
“I can’t even find the right words to say how great she was as a person,” Barracks said. “She was a very great person.”
“It’s very, very emotional,” said Terressa Lundy, “from the teachers to the students to the administrators all in tears and in awe of this situation, this tragedy.”
The school’s vice president, Paul Colistra, said even though school is out for the summer, their doors are open for students to come in and mourn, reflect and seek counseling.
“The past three days have been sun up to sun down and mourning, grieving a special young woman,” Colistra said.
He said they are a family at West Catholic and they’ll get through this tragedy as a family.
“The support from the community has been overwhelming. “We talk a lot about family at West Catholic Prep and we live that,” he said. “Tonight is probably the first opportunity to begin that healing process.”
“She was there with us, I believe in my heart, she was there with us tonight,” said Niyah Logan, Akyra’s aunt.
Logan said the moving tribute was the perfect way to honor her niece, who was a bright light to all who knew her.
“I don’t think she’d want to be sent off any other way,” she said. “But around a bunch of people that love and care for her. I know she’s happy.”
Logan said the family will likely hold Akyra’s funeral next week.
They’ve set up the Akyra Murray Memorial Fund at Citizens Bank to help pay for her funeral expenses.