The following letter was written by Gracie Anne Muehlberger's father, Bryan Muehlberger, for inclusion in the #SaugusStrong Vigil on Sunday, November 17, 2019. The letter and accompanying photographs were released for publication by the family on November 19, 2019.
As Cindy and I struggle with this most painful of all struggles, and this horrific tragedy that has occurred to our beloved Gracie, there's a lot of noise out there, so we wanted to push the noise aside and pause, and use this opportunity to share with you a little about our Baby Girl — Gracie.
Gracie Anne Muehlberger was born on October 10th, 2004. Gracie was born in St. Louis, where she attended Fairway Elementary. Then raised from 2nd grade until 9th grade in Santa Clarita, California ... a place we now call "home."
Gracie was one of 3 children, and the only daughter of Cindy and I. She has 2 wonderful, courageous and loving brothers — Riley and Brady — who both absolutely adored her. This is Gracie.
Her oldest brother, Riley, recently graduated from Saugus High School in June 2019 and is currently serving in the US Navy.
Brady is a Junior at Saugus and was under lockdown when this horrific event occurred to his sister, their friends and all of their classmates.
Gracie looked up to both of her brothers. She was very close to both of them, often hugging them and giving them kisses even when they thought it was gross. She would do anything to support them, and often told us how very much she loved and cherished them. This is Gracie.
We called her "Sweetpea" from a very early age, and she loved the nickname, often referring to herself as "Daddy's little Sweetpea" and often signing her little cards and notes with "Love Gracie (aka your Sweetpea)." This is Gracie.
Gracie loved to dance, and sing and entertain. She was a natural performer. From pink tutu's to plastic princess shoes, she was always singing and dancing. And as time went on, always wanting a camera in front of her. This is Gracie.
She played soccer as a little girl for a short while, but eventually fell in love with dance and did that for a number of years. She eventually left dance to do Gym Cheer and competed with the California Flyers for a few years where she met a number of great friends, and had tons of fun. This is Gracie.
As she grew up into a young woman, her mom would often take her to get her nails or hair done, and go shopping and such. Cindy and Gracie were the very best friends and so very much alike. From their beautiful blue eyes, to their infectious smiles, and a little bit of craziness, but most of all the love and shining light they put on others. This is Gracie.
Gracie loved to be with her friends, especially Addie and Sophia — two of her closest friends, but she loved all of her friends the same. There were so many that touched her life. This is Gracie.
Now Gracie knew what it was like to not always be one of the popular kids, and knew what it was like to be the one where at times other kids didn't want to play or talk to her. Yet she always remained so strong and held her head high, and would always extend a hand to those that needed a friend. Best of all, she did it with a smile and confidence that shined a light on everyone. There are so many stories of people who shared how Gracie touched their lives. This is Gracie.
We recall all of the sleep overs and times when many of her friends would be over. As any of you that have daughters can attest, when a girl is hanging out with her friends, the volume in the house can sometimes be quite high ... whether because of the loud music or the laughter or the giggles that little girls make. The sounds of her laugh and that of her friends would fill the house. As parents we often get upset about the noise during the moment asking them to quiet down and such. But now, during a moment like this, all we really want is to hear her that laughter and those giggles filling the house, and to see that big beautiful smile, or feel the warmth of her lips kissing us on the cheek. This is Gracie.
She loved going to Starbucks. We feel like we own a piece of Starbucks with how much we have invested there. She has to be the most loyal customer of the Grande Caramel Frappuccino anywhere in the Santa Clarita Valley. Gracie would find a reason at every chance she could get to go to Starbucks. We'd say "go ride your bikes with your friends or something," and she would say, "good idea, we will ride them up to Starbucks." Or for the first day of school — "let's go to Starbucks," or "its Friday, let's go to Starbucks," or "Before Church, let's go to Starbucks." Or on almost every day after school, she would ask her Mom to take her and Addie to Starbucks, and more often than not, Cindy would oblige because Gracie would find a good reason.
Even on Wednesday evening, the day before the incident, and as Cindy was prepping for her ACL surgery Thursday morning, Gracie was able to talk her Mom into Starbucks once again, stating the reason as "a good luck on your surgery and getting all better" drink. This is Gracie.
Gracie was a freshman in high school at Saugus High School. She was only barely over 15 when this tragic event occurred. She only spent 14 weeks in high school. It's just too short of time. She was just getting her next phase of life started. She will never get to drive a car or go to her first formal dance — which she was already planning to do for the Sadies Hawkins dance scheduled for Saturday night November 16th. She was looking forward to shopping for her dress Friday night. This is Gracie.
She will never get to find a loving boy, fall in love, get married, have a family, or raise beautiful children. She will never get to find her passion in life for a career — though we had a feeling it might be in entertainment at some point.
We will never get to give our daughter away to the man of her dreams, or see her in her wedding dress.
I could have never imagined that there would be a last "I love you" or kiss goodbye. Or a last Christmas, or Birthday, or dinner out. A last kiss before going to bed, or a last talk or hug or smile. A last joke, or last laugh. It all came too soon.
It's just not fair and it makes no sense. We continue to pray to understand the why's, but there aren't many answers right now.
On the morning of this tragic event, we have a video of her leaving the house on the Ring doorbell. We can see a beautiful, confident young woman, on the rise. Her hair and makeup was done up perfectly — unlike many mornings, and even pulled back with a small braid across the top. She left with a pep in her stride like she knew where she wanted to go. You could tell that this day was special and was going to be different. She was wearing her favorite new outfit, and left the house ready to go to school with her head held high to take on anything that the day was going to throw at her. This is Gracie.
Nobody could have imagined what would unfold that Thursday morning and at 7:38am, that two, innocent and precious souls, and the lives of so many others — would be rocked forever.
We want to give our thoughts and prayers to all of the others involved or dealing with this horrific tragedy:
We will all be forever connected in a unique and powerful way to all of these individuals.
Please remember all of them in your thoughts and prayers, and most of all, remember our little Sweetpea, Baby Girl, Angel Baby — Gracie, who will forever be a part of Santa Clarita Valley and our lives. Gracie, will remain alive in our hearts — and the hearts and minds of all of you and the rest of the world.
Fly high baby girl. Go Dance with Jesus and your legacy will live on forever. We won't stop until our last breath to memorialize you in the way that you deserve and to ensure the way you lived your life is remembered by all.
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