The count down begins before Morgan's friends and family release their balloons.
THE BLADE/ASHLEY ISAAC
About two dozen silver-white balloons were released into the sky tonight by family and friends who were remembering the Sylvania Northview High School girl with the "amazing smile" and "infectious laugh."
Organized by students and friends, the balloon release on a hill in front of the school was part of a remembrance ceremony held to honor the life of Morgan Duris, on the third anniversary of her death.
Miss Duris was killed in January 2010, while crossing the street to get on a school bus on Erie Street in Sylvania, near Apple Meadow Drive. She was 15 years old.
Kayla Ross, who organized the event with fellow Northview senior Sydney Gauer, said it has been important to hold some kind of event every year, to remember their friend.
“We like to do something every year,” she said, adding that this time, she wanted to hold an event that was “happier” and “more uplifting.” Last year, a few students went out to dinner together for the second anniversary.
But the weather was unwilling to cooperate with the original plan. Students planned to release Chinese lanterns into the sky, but chilly temperatures in the teens, as well as strong winds, prevented the group from being able to light them safely.
As the groups of students and a few parents gathered on the hill before the ceremony, they huddled together and shared some memories of Miss Duris.
Miss Gauer said she remembers her friend's laughter the most.
“Her laugh was really noticeable. If you heard her, you knew it was her,” she said. The two first met in elementary school and Miss Gauer said the group of friends they had “hung out all the time.”
Stories of her infectious laughter came up more than once throughout the 20-minute event.
“Her laugh was unbelievably contagious,” Miss Ross said.
Miss Ross and Miss Gauer started planning for the event at the beginning of the month. Before the balloons were released into the sky, markers were passed out for students to write memories or messages. On one of those balloons, senior Sydney Froelich wrote about Miss Duris' “amazing smile.”
Tony Duris, her father, also released one into the sky. His wife and Morgan's mother, Vicki Duris, and Morgan's brother also attended, watching the event from the family van. Miss Gauer said that her friend was very involved with her family.
Brad Rieger, superintendent for Sylvania School District, was unable to attend the event, but released a statement.
“We miss Morgan every day,” he said in an email. “Losing her was a tragedy. May we keep Morgan's spirit alive by appreciating the moment and living life with the enthusiasm and love that she did.”
After the ceremony, a few students headed over to the Northview High School rock, at the back of school property, to spray paint more messages and memories.
While there were tears and hugs during the balloon release, the stories shared by students gave a clearer picture of the great effect Miss Duris had on the lives of her classmates.
“She was a really caring person and her friends and her family were her top priority. That's what she cared about the most,” Miss Gauer said.
Contact Kelly McLendon at email@example.com or 419-206-0356 or on Twitter at @MyTownSylvania.