Dread engulfed David Hernandez on Monday when the professor announced a student in the class had died.
The psychology major worried as he gazed at the empty seat next to him, the one where his buddy Adrienne Morgan sat.
She’d always beat him to class, but wasn’t there this time.
He frantically text-messaged her and waited.
Eventually, he flipped over a copy of a nearby Collegian and his heart sank.
The warm girl he’d sip beer and scarf pizza with at the Ramskeller was gone.
“If I was having a bad day, she’d always try to make me laugh,” Hernandez said, fighting back tears.
Morgan died last Friday night when a suspected drunk driver sped through a traffic light and smashed his pick-up truck into her tiny Hyundai Elantra as she tried to make a left turn, authorities said.
On Thursday, friends and family of Morgan gathered at Old Chicago in Old Town to celebrate her life. The tears flowed, but smiles and belly laughs drowned them as they remembered the daughter, friend and sister simply incapable of holding a grudge.
“She forgave the people who hurt her the most,” said Erica Reich, a friend and 2004 CSU graduate. “We can’t all have her energy, and we can’t all have her enthusiasm, but we can all try to be forgiving.”
Adrienne’s dad, Kyle Morgan, overcame a culture of drug and alcohol abuse to raise Adrienne and his other children. And through all the tough times, Adrienne was a fountain of strength, he said.
“She was always there for us,” Kyle Morgan said. “More times than not, she would seem like the parent.”
Friends praised Morgan’s indomitable spirit and love of life.
Jazmine Martinez, 23, knew Morgan since they were about 12. They played basketball together in junior high and high school and remained friends since.
“She’d run down the court full speed, and she didn’t know when to stop,” she said. “That’s how she lived her life.”
Dozens of friends and family from around the country gathered in Old Chicago last night to joke and kid about the girl who loved animals and the outdoors.
When Adrienne was about 5 years old, the family stopped in a teepee near Gallup, N.M., where they saw a pony that looked sick and bloated.
“Adrienne wanted to bring that pony home,” Kyle Morgan said. “That’s just the feeling she had for animals.”
Adrienne Morgan spent four years volunteering at a ranch in Tucson, Ariz., – her hometown – that took in abused and unwanted animals.
The psychology major wanted to pave her own way in life. She held down a full-time job as a healthcare assistant at Poudre Valley Hospital while taking 18 units at CSU.
Reich and Morgan planned to go backpacking in Colorado over the summer. They’d just bought a book off Ebay that would help them with the trip.
Kathleen Morgan, Adrienne’s stepmother, described her daughter succinctly: “Adrienne was on fire. Anything she did, she did it with all her might.”
Whenever Morgan met Reich, Morgan would greet her friend with bear-hugs and kisses. The last time was just days before the fatal crash.
On Thursday night, the collision that claimed Morgan’s life was rarely mentioned.
Authorities arrested Stephen Groissant, a 54-year-old Fort Collins resident driving the pick-up truck. No formal charges have been filed as of Thursday afternoon, said Linda Jensen, spokeswoman for the Larimer County District Attorney’s Office.
He posted $25,000 bail on Wednesday, and is set to appear in court on Feb. 13, Jensen said.
Police believe alcohol was involved because an arresting officer smelled it on Grossaint’s breath, said Gilbert Mares, a Colorado State Patrol spokesman, earlier this week.
In 2005, there were 606 traffic deaths on Colorado’s state highways, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In that same year, 27 died on Larimer County roads.
But behind each statistic lies a story and a person.
Tears dripped down Hernandez’s face at the thought of never seeing Morgan again.
No more scouting classrooms together looking for left-handed desks for Morgan so the two could sit together.
No more walks through the Oval after class on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
And no more talking, joking and laughing about life.
On Thursday night, as dozens of friends and family members gathered to hear stories about Adrienne, Kathleen turned her attention to a reporter about to leave.
She hugged him, smiled, and softly spoke two words: “Drive safely.”
Managing Editor Vimal Patel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.