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Parents, students struggle with loss of 14-year-old

Students, faculty to wear purple in memory of Gianna Asencio

Photo courtesy of @HaleeNevada.
Photo courtesy of @HaleeNevada.

FLEMING ISLAND, Fla. – As students and faculty at Fleming Island High School wore purple -- the favorite color of the 14-year-old freshman -- and organized a prayer circle in the school's courtyard for the second day in a row, Gianna Asencio's parents sat by a memorial at the intersection where she was struck and killed Thursday morning. 

At the bus stop where her daughter was killed, her mother sat clutching a picture of Gianna and crying.

Lisa Asencio said she had a sickening feeling something was wrong Thursday morning and texted Gianna with no response. She actually saw the accident and prayed for the person involved, then found out it was her daughter.

"She just had the kindest, warmest heart and she truly was an angel. She was an angel here on earth and she's an angel now in heaven," Asencio said. "I just can't thank the community enough because they have been so, so kind and loving. It's just been incredible."

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The family had only moved to Fleming Island from New York six months ago, but she was quickly accepted at school. She was a gymnast and cheerleader who had just learned to surf and skateboard.

"She just really loved it here and she said to me, 'Mommy, I want a boyfriend.' I said, ‘Don't worry honey, when you least expect it, it's going to come to you.'"

Gianna's father, Jason Asencio, said the daughter the family called GiGi was always concerned about everyone else and tried to make them laugh.

"That's what I remember: her smile. Her smile was so beautiful she cared about everybody else. She was so compassionate. She would put everybody else above herself," he said. "She was just amazing. I couldn't ask for a better child."

The Fleming Island freshman was walking on the crosswalk at Woodlake Drive on Eagle Harbor Parkway before dawn Thursday when troopers say she stepped out in front of a car she didn't see.

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Lisa Asencio said she doesn't hold any grudge against the driver that hit her daughter.

"My heart goes out to the man who hit her because this is something he has to live with for the rest of his life," she said. "I don't blame him and I'm not angry. I'm not angry. The only thing I'm angry about is such a beautiful, loving child who had so much going for her, she could have lived a wonderful life and she could've been so much."

For the second day in a row, hundreds of people came by the bus stop memorial to contribute flowers and balloons and said a prayer for Gianna and her family, who had advice for other parents.

"Just hug your children every single moment that you can and hold them and kiss them and smell them and smother them, because you just never know," Lisa Asencio said. "If I would have known that day she walked out the door, I would've never let her go."

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At the high school on Friday, the tight-knit community showed an outpouring of support for the Asencio family.

Cheerleaders wore purple shoelaces to school Friday and most students had on something purple to honor Gianna.

Between Thursday night and Friday morning, hundreds of people were in attendance between the two vigils held for the 14-year-old.

"Everyone's a little broken up. Myself, it's a tragedy to people who knew her. A lot of people are very emotional right now," said Josh Brandon, a friend of Gianna's. "The whole campus is trying to come together and make it through this because it's very emotional for everyone."

Emotions were strong and many of them were in tears. The vigil was so crowded, traffic was backed up for miles in Clay County. At 6:40 p.m. Friday night, exactly 12 hours after she died, everyone raised candles in her memory.

There are numerous fundraisers to help the family with funeral expenses. A memorial car wash is planned Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Goodyear on County Road 220. The ROTC and GROTC is organizing the event, and funds raised will go to Gianna's family.

Anyone interested in helping the family with funeral costs can donate at gofundme.com, which had already raised over $14,000 by Friday afternoon. Vigil and funeral information can be found here.