Friends, coworkers mourn Valencia High grad killed in suspected murder-suicide

Friends of Drew Birnkrant, who was killed in a murder-suicide just two days prior, gathered for a candlelight vigil to honor her memory at Valencia High School in Valencia, Calif. on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018. Christian Monterrosa/ The Signal

The life of Drew Birnkrant — who was shot and killed at the age of 20 in a murder-suicide detectives believe was committed by her father — was remembered by her friends who assembled in Valencia High’s quad Sunday night, their faces illuminated by the warm yellow glow of candles.

Hundreds of teens and young adults turned out. They hugged each other, buried their heads in each other’s chests and cried. And they spoke, one by one, sharing their memories of what they all described as her infectious spirit.

A contingent of her young coworkers, who said they cherished the time they spent working alongside her at Hollister over the course of the last year, initiated the ceremony. The group of girls mobilized immediately after learning of Birnkrant’s death, and Sunday’s vigil was made possible largely by their efforts.

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“I’d always come in and she’d be the first person to say, ‘Hi’ to me, and the first person to say ‘bye’ to me when I’d leave,” said Jessica Cunha, a coworker at Hollister, to The Signal.

Lauren Jordan speaks into the microphone to thank members of the community for coming out to support the vigil she helped organize for Drew Birnkrant at Valencia High School in Valencia, Calif. on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018. Christian Monterrosa/ The Signal

The girls soon turned the microphone over to the crowd — a diverse composition of Birnkrant’s high school, work and track and field friends — and invited attendees to share their thoughts with the group.

In total, more than 20 individuals spoke to the memory of Drew Birnkrant. Many called upon the crowd to cherish their loved ones and to keep Drew’s memory alive.

Her coworkers at the retail clothing store who organized the event believed the vigil was a night of catharsis, an opportunity for the community to grieve as a collective whole and a chance to remember their friend and the life she lived.

“I think it helps everyone because at the beginning of the night we started off in tears and by the end our tears were dried and turned into laughter and smiles,” said Lauren Jordan, a principal organizer of the event, “and I think that’s what it’s all about.”

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