Fifteen-year-old Gracie Anne Muehlberger and her father, Bryan, used to dance in their kitchen to Steven Curtis Chapman’s song “Cinderella,” about a father dancing with his daughter one last time before the clock strikes midnight and she leaves him for her prince.
The two would slide around in their socks, Muehlberger twirling his little girl to the song they had already picked out for her future wedding. The lyrics more poignant than they knew.
So I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
‘Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh, I will dance with Cinderella
I don’t wanna miss even one song
Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she’ll be gone
“We never knew the midnight would be 7:38 a.m., Nov. 14,” Muehlberger said during a celebration of his daughter’s life Saturday afternoon at Real Life Church in Valencia that drew hundreds of friends and relatives.
Gracie, 15, was one of two students killed that day at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita.
She was fatally wounded when a classmate, armed with a .45-caliber handgun, opened fire in the school’s quad area, authorities said. Another student, Dominic Blackwell, 14, was also killed and three others wounded. The gunman, Nathaniel Berhow, 16, then turned the weapon on himself, authorities said. He died from his injury a day later.
A private service was scheduled for Dominic on Sunday in Santa Clarita.
A motive for the shooting has not been determined. Gracie was part of a high school ministry at Real Life, a nondenominational Christian church with 7,000 congregants. Lead pastor Rusty George led the audience in a prayer, thanking God for Gracie’s joy and her effect on the people she knew. He said that Gracie is in a better place.
Mourners listened to “Cinderella” and “Amazing Grace” and watched videos of Gracie dancing and singing. They shared their memories of her, describing her as funny, free-spirited, vivacious, independent and “unapologetically herself.” She loved Starbucks and laughing and rap music and Vans shoes.
Addison Koegle, 14, who was wounded in the shooting, told the audience that she’s never been in more pain, physically or emotionally. She remembered the brownies she and Gracie would bake together and the performances they’d put on for their parents.
“We talked about growing old together and living in a house with a bunch of dogs,” she said.
Bryan Muehlberger recalled how Gracie could eat an entire jar of cherries from Trader Joe’s in one sitting and how she was the worst deejay, always changing the song every 30 seconds. He remembered their ‘date’ nights, when they’d both get dressed up and he’d open the door for her and let her order first, little ways to show her “how a man should treat her.”
He shared an excerpt from her journal and asked that everyone in the audience remember her words: “You only have one life to live, so why not live it great, real and fill it with memories and experiences.”
“We are forever Gracie strong,” he said.