SAN MARCOS, Calif. - Childhood friends of the San Marcos natives murdered in their Houston home two weeks ago held a memorial in their honor Monday evening.
People who grew up with Katie and Stephen Stay gathered at Double Peak Park in San Marcos.
They wiped away tears as they watched dozens of balloons drift off into the sunset. They chose teal to match the color the Stay family was wearing in their final portrait.
"We definitely have lost some really special people, but they are in a better place and we're here for Cassidy," said Michelle Page.
Page and Katie Stay had known each other since nursery school.
"She was constantly thinking of others, always lifting up other people's spirits," said Page. "She was just such an amazing, amazing person and she had so much love for everybody that it didn't shock me that this all kind of came full circle because she was ultimately protecting the one she loved."
Page said Stay was helping her sister get away from an abusive ex-husband.
"She wanted to get her sister to safety," said Page. "She did a really good job at doing that, and at the end she was protecting her and she wanted to keep her safe and she was willing to lay down herself for that."
Fifteen-year-old Cassidy Stay is the only one to survive the massacre in the family's Houston home. Ronald Haskell, also of San Marcos, is charged with the execution-style shootings of Katie and Stephen Stay and their five children.
A bullet grazed Cassidy in the head, but she pretended she was dead and then called police.
Karen Hardin was her kindergarten teacher. She was among those Monday evening writing the young girl letters of support.
"Because of her, her grandparents and a lot of her aunts and uncles are alive today," said Hardin.
Cassidy will be raised by her aunt and uncle in Texas.
"Right now, I think she has a lot of pressure on her, you know because she has been so strong and she's a very brave girl," said Page. "I'm not sure a lot of people or their children would be able to do what she's done, she definitely did save a lot of lives that day."
Many of the people who gathered at Monday's memorial also know the Haskell family.
"The Haskells too, were just a really great, happy-go-lucky family," said Andrew Christensen. "We thought of them all as just comedians."
Christensen says Haskell talked to his brother in San Marcos moments after the shootings.
"He was on the phone with Ronnie, I understand, right after the incident happened, trying to convince Ronnie not to take his own life and to turn himself in," Christensen said.
Earlier Monday, friends spent the day raising money for Cassidy at a nearby Chick-Fil-A.