Friends, community come together to remember Alyssa

  • Hundreds turned out to a candle light vigil held for Alyssa Byrne at Casa Grande High School, Friday, January 4, 2013. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Kneeling amid floral bouquets and gently swaying balloons, Bridget Lyons of Petaluma carefully placed three thin white candles at the base of a growing memorial.

Sniffling, she gently positioned them below signs reading "rest in peace" and "thoughts and prayers" for Alyssa Byrne.

"Just three candles," Lyons said. "Three to me is very important: a mother, a father, a child."

More than 400 people — Byrne's classmates, teammates, co-workers, friends, family and complete strangers — attended a candlelight memorial Friday night at Casa Grande High School for the young Petaluma woman who died in Tahoe over New Year's.

Shivering against the cold and clutching loved ones for warmth and support, many simply held candles and stood silently, perhaps remembering good times with Byrne.

"I'm thinking of the family. I really feel for them," said a tearful Lyons, a "team mom," for one of Byrne's lacrosse teams.

Several lacrosse players from Casa and Petaluma high schools — Byrne played for both — laid sprays of tulips, roses or mums along the memorial at the edge of the athletic fields. Many wrote loving notes on the memorial signs.

A few shared funny stories of their friend who died too young.

"She had a spirit about her," said Katie Modell, 20, who played lacrosse with Byrne in 2009 at Casa.

"She was absolutely hilarious," said Casa teammate Ashley Cook, 20, who now lives in Reno. "There was never a dull moment in practice with her, ever."

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