Graduation day was bittersweet for many high school seniors across the area. Many of them graduated without some of their classmates after a fatal car accident and a shooting took the lives of four students over the past few months.
At the Bill Harris Arena in West Birmingham, an empty chair marked the absence of Courtlin Arrington during the Huffman High School graduation ceremony.
“Courtlin been waiting on this day for so long,” said Arrington’s mother Tynesha Tatum.
As seniors donned their cap and gown and prepared to receive their diplomas, several of them said they were thinking about Courtlin Arrington.
“It’s hard not to cry, because we all look forward to this. She looked forward to this. She wanted to be a [Registered Nurse], and she was looking so forward to getting here. And to know that we’re here but she’s not, we have to keep pushing for her. I know she would be happy,” said senior Anthony Durr.
At the front of the room, a chair for Arrington sat empty, draped in a black cloth and a purple ribbon, with a sash from the nursing program bearing her name.
“When they did that chair, it really touched me,” said Tatum. “It’s hard. It’s real hard. I’m taking it one day at a time …She was waiting on this day.”
During the ceremony, Courtlin’s sister, Tamera Tatum received Arrington’s diploma.
“Courtlin was a very, very smart young lady. Very smart. That smile y’all see? That’s her every morning. She was determined to be that nurse,” said Arrington’s mother. “She got accepted to four colleges. And I’m still getting letters now to this day for her. So I’m going to do this for my baby. We’re going to keep her memories alive.”
“She was a shining star for our family,” said Arrington’s uncle, Gerald Tatum. “For her to be cut at such a young age and the way she was, it put a dent in our family. It definitely did. We’ve just got to try to come together as a family and just stay strong for her.”
At 7 p.m. graduation ceremonies for Parker High School began at the arena. Three seniors from Parker died in a fiery crash on Lakeshore last month.