PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) Less than 2 weeks ago, Akyra Murray graduated third in her class from West Catholic Prep High School. On Wednesday night, former classmates, teachers and alumni poured into the same building to honor her memory after the 18- year-old was shot and killed inside Orlando’s Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning. Flags at the West Philadelphia school were flying at half staff.
“Everybody wanted to be like her,” said Monique Barracks a former teammate on the Lady Burrs basketball team. Barracks remembered how Murray, a 1,000 point scorer this season, would rally the team in good times and bad.
“She would keep our hearts and heads into every game. Winning or losing and that she just knew the right words to say and how to build us up as a team,” she said.
Hundreds filled the schools auditorium on 46th and Chestnut. The private vigil led by school president Brother Richard Kestler who himself struggled to find words of comfort for the West Catholic family.
“One of the characteristics of our school is we are family. So when this type of situation happens in any family, a family gathers together and they get strength from one another so the whole opportunity for students to speak and get strength from one another is the whole reason for doing that,” said Kestler.
Most everyone here not only knew Akyra but in one way or another she helped them, like the leader she was either in the classroom or on the basketball court.
“She just did everything the right way thorough how she lived and everybody saw it. She stood out,” said classmate Calvin Pressley.
As student poured out of the vigil with tears in their eyes, many say they still can’t believe the girl they saw just days ago is now gone.
“It really doesn’t seem real. Because you wouldn’t think of this for her. You would think she would go on and play basketball and be a leader somewhere else..it doesn’t seem real to me,” said West Catholic sophomore Justin Freeman.
Murray’s immediate family was not at the vigil. At the same tim,e the memorial was taking place Wednesday night Akira’s body was being released by the FBI back to the family in Orlando.