JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Family, friends and countless others around the world celebrated the life of 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey on Tuesday.
Hundreds of people wearing aqua and white, Bailey’s favorite colors, attended the service at Celebration Church on Jacksonville’s Southside, and thousands watched the two-hour tribute online.
There were tears, but the memorial was overwhelmingly cheerful -- and loud. It’s how Bailey’s loved ones said she’d want it to be.
(Click below to watch the full, uncut celebration of life)
“Tristyn had a laugh that was contagious and the brightest smile we ever saw,” said sister Brittney Bailey Russell. “Tristyn was one of the most confident, well-rounded, beautiful, smart and kind-hearted humans I know. She could care less what the world thought of her. She loved herself some Tristyn. Life will be difficult in this new world we have been shoved into. Aqua blue will always speak to us just as much as Gucci belts and Starbucks will remind us. But even through all the hard that is to come, we are seeing the light. Just alone the outcry has been more helpful in this grieving process. My family and I together have vowed to never let Tristyn’s name be lost, especially to her little niece who was robbed of having enough time with her aunt.”
Bailey’s family members remembered the chuckles, the cuddles and the love and they described the cheerleading captain as larger than life.
“When someone you love becomes a memory, the memories become treasures,” said sister Alexis Bailey. “Let Tristyn become your treasure.”
Bailey’s four older siblings spoke to the large crowd. They kept it cheerful and couldn’t help but laugh. Her teachers and friends also shared stories of the girl who lit up every room she stepped into.
“Tristyn’s thoughtfulness and her caring made her a light to everybody around her. I loved her cheerful energy. It inspired me every day. Tristyn, our sweet girl, you will be missed,” said Allison Olson, the principal of Patriot Oaks Academy, where Bailey attended. “I promise you we will remember you by becoming a little kinder, a little more patient and more compassionate.”
Her cheer squad made a video of the fun times, calling her tenacious and supportive and someone who stood up for her team and what was right. Bailey’s fellow cheerleading teammates even wore their uniforms to the service.
Pastor Andrew Smith officiated a private funeral for the Bailey family on Saturday. Tuesday was about lifting up the family, with the crowd giving the family, known as the “Bailey 7,” a standing ovation.
“We are forever changed as a family, but we will always be the Bailey 7. For now, I will follow what Tristyn has always said, ‘Get it together. You got this mom!’ Always and forever my cheerleader and my sweet baby girl,” said Stacy Bailey, the 13-year-old’s mother.
Forrest Bailey, her father, said: “When you give someone your thoughts and prayers, you are giving everything. There are no words. There are no words that will heal it. All of the messages that poured in, from people all over the place, they helped us.”
Pastor Jeff McDuffie said he’s in awe of the strength the Bailey family possesses.
“Just an amazing family,” he said. “They want to show the community love despite the pain they ever been through.”
Pastor Bob Thyer, director of care ministry, said the service gave loved ones an opportunity to come together.
“There’s a sense of excitement and anticipation for celebrating her life today,” Thyer told News4Jax ahead of the service. “As I walked through the lobby, people were chatting and talking with one another, and they’re looking forward to celebrating her life in the midst of a tragic tragic situation.”
Outside, a plane flew over the church with a banner reading #TristynBaileyStrong, which has been a motto for many of her loved ones as they honor her life. A Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department truck also pulled up to the service with an aqua ribbon in remembrance of her.
As the service ended, the crowd cheered: “Tristyn Bailey strong!”
“The whole idea behind the celebration of life, we believe when we pass away, it’s not the end,” McDuffie said.
Bailey’s family members said they’re blessed to have so many people who care.
Bailey was found dead about 6 p.m. May 9 in her Durbin Crossing neighborhood in St. Johns County, several hours after her family reported her missing. Authorities said they suspect she was killed by 14-year-old Aiden Fucci, a schoolmate of Bailey’s at Patriot Oaks Academy, although the murder investigation is ongoing.