INDIANAPOLIS — The students at George Washington High School filled the football stadium bleachers Friday afternoon and held purple and white balloons in the school colors. They were joined in the front rows by the family of 2020 graduate Karli Smith, one of the eight victims of the FedEx mass shooting April 15.
"An unfortunate tragedy happened at work to where she lost her life to violence,” Washington High School principal Stan Law told the crowd. “Because we are a family here at George Washington, we thought it was appropriate that we make sure we acknowledge her, acknowledge what she stood for."
Karli was just 19 years old. She graduated from George Washington less than a year ago, so many of the students in the crowd were former classmates.
"It's a really great opportunity for everyone to come out and show some love,” said Jazmyne Moszee, Karli's sister. “For the school to put this together, it really supports us, and it really helps us a lot."
"We certainly want to bring...to show our respect and our love for Karli and her family,” said Law. “We want to bring attention to the unfortunate violence that tends to plague our community."
Karli had only worked at FedEx Ground a couple weeks when she was shot and killed waiting for her ride home after her shift. Karli's mother, Karen Smith, has attended several community memorials for the victims.
"People that have never even laid eyes on Karli that feel the pain and want to help or pray or just be there,” said Karen.
The principal, an Indianapolis Public Schools official, and a representative of the mayor’s office made brief remarks. Then the crowd observed a moment of silence before the balloons were released – first by the family, then the students.
Karli Smith balloon release
"Long live Karli!" someone shouted as the balloons rose high above the school.
"Initially it was, 'I'm not ready to let go,' so I didn't want to let go of my balloon,” said Karen. “Then when I saw everybody letting go of theirs, I just realized it's what it is. I don't want to let go. I will never let go. It was just a sentiment. It was just pretty. It was wonderful and then you looked up and you saw so many balloons and you're like, 'Oh that's my baby. This many people love my baby."
Karen Smith misses everything about her daughter, even the typical teenage girl habits.
"I don't have a single place in my house where I can turn my head and not have a positive memory of her,” said Karen. “I see a pile of her clothes sitting on the table that she told me she put away or shoes on the floor that don't go there."
Two of Karli's siblings attend Washington High School. The family received a plaque, t-shirts and flowers reminding them that their school community hurts with them.
A celebration of Karli’s life will be held on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until noon at the Blended Church, 2215 Country Club Rd. This will be a visitation only. Karli is survived by her parents, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles and extended family and friends.