COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It was a day of celebration and a time for reflection for the Ridge View High School graduating class of 2015. But one graduate was noticeably absent.
In August 2012, Gabbiee Swainson was 15 years old when she went missing -- less than a week before starting her sophomore year at Ridge View.
One year later, her body was found.
Her classmates now sit where Gabbiee would have, knowing, if she could, she would have been right there among the graduates in Colonial Life Arena.
"To know that we're graduating without Gabbiee is kind of sad but at the same time we know she would have wanted us to keep going with or without her and that gives you that strength and that boost to keep going," graduating senior Jenai Brown said.
Gabbiee gripped the community, leaving an unforgettable impression.
"When I first heard about Gabbiee's death, it was very hard and sad because Gabbiee was in my second grade class," graduating senior Tal Johnson, Jr. "I would see her everyday passing through the hallways, so it was really hard when I heard what happened to her but Gabbiee motivated me to push myself through high school and become a better person."
Her friends remember Gabbiee's spirit, her kindness, and her voice.
"I just had a lot of memories with her and going into high school with her as well, and I just miss her so much, and I can still hear her voice singing right now," senior Jada Brown said.
Jada Brown and her twin sister, Jenai, sang the national anthem in honor of Gabbiee.
"You can definitely feel it in the air but at the same time it's like a sweet spirit because she was such a kind person," Jenai said. "We've known her since elementary school so, to lose her is like -- Oh my gosh, you know a piece is missing but at the same time, like I said, it builds you up because you have to pick up someone else's strength that they're not here to physically put into the class."
Ridge View's principal also mentioned Gabbiee, saying the senior class has shown incredible resilience in dealing with the loss of their classmate.
The seniors were excited and ready to begin this new journey -- and congratulations to them -- but it's clear, Gabbiee is still in their hearts and minds.