For her 16th birthday Saturday, Bryan and Cindy Muehlberger would have taken their slain daughter Gracie to the DMV to pick up her driver’s license.
“She would have come home, hopped in the car, went and grab a couple of her friends … She would (have) roll(ed) down the windows, open the sunroof, blare some of her favorite tunes, laughing and giggling and they would have drove off just enjoying a lot of life,” said Bryan.
Gracie was one of the two students who were fatally shot during the Saugus High School shooting on Nov. 14, 2019. It’s been the worst 11 months of the Muehlbergers’ lives, they said, but Saturday was not about mourning, rather to celebrate her.
“One day, I saw a man walking with his daughter leaving Dunkin’ Donuts and I just started bawling,” said Bryan. “Today, we’re trying to be positive, celebrate, smile because this isn’t her funeral. This is the celebration of her life and we want to celebrate the way she would, you know? We didn’t cry on her birthdays in the past. Why would we cry today?”
Gathered by some of their closest friends and family, the Muehlbergers celebrated Gracie’s 16th birthday by releasing 16 doves at the Duane R. Harte Park in Saugus Saturday morning.
Bryan asked attendees to do as Gracie did when she was alive:
“Today, I want all of us to do the same. I want us to celebrate Gracie by doing just that, you know, spend some time, roll down your windows, open your sunroof if you got one, blare some of your favorite tunes, laugh, enjoy some life,” he said.
Gracie is celebrated every day, her parents said, by trying not to let the small things in life get to you and to follow the love for life she had.
Saturday also marked a special milestone for the GracieStrong Foundation, which the Muehlbergers recently filed to officially establish it as a nonprofit organization, they said.
“We officially have our first board meeting today at 5 o’clock to commemorate the foundation. So, officially launched as of today,” said Bryan. “And the whole purpose of the mission of GracieStrong is to really help individuals find their voice and for their voice to be heard because we believe that everyone has a powerful voice that should be heard.”
To learn more, visit graciestrong.org.