FARMINGTON – Casey Jordan was always “enchanted by life.”
Family photos document her growth from a tiny premature baby to a vivacious little girl and, finally, an elegant young woman.
The last pictures show the 17-year-old enjoying her senior year at Aztec High School – cheerleading on the field, eating lunch at Subway, dressing up for formal dances.
In nearly every picture, Jordan is smiling, like she’s about to tell a great joke. That’s the kind of person she was, according to family and friends who packed the San Juan College Henderson Fine Arts Center on Sunday to celebrate her short life.
Jordan, who was originally identified as Casey J. Marquez, was shot and killed Dec. 7 by 21-year-old William Atchison, who had entered Aztec High with a plan to commit mass murder. Francisco “Paco” Fernandez Jr., 17, was also killed. They were the only victims. Atchison, a former Aztec High student, later shot himself, police say.
On Sunday, Jordan was remembered as a joker with a “special light” – someone who always tried to help others, from stray animals to teammates to neighbors.
“Casey was the shining star of this community,” said James Foster, a family friend who officiated at the funeral service. “Everybody loved her. She had a positive outlook and lightened the mood.”
Even in death, she is still bringing people together – something she would have appreciated, according to family friend John Faverino.
Hundreds gathered at the Henderson Fine Arts Center to remember Jordan, including cheerleaders from surrounding schools, who all wore their uniforms in tribute to her.
Gov. Susana Martinez and Public Education Department Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski also attended.
“Her legacy will live beyond her life,” Martinez told the crowd. “She set an example for helping others.”
Brice Current, a family friend, recalled that Jordan had taken the time to show his daughter around Aztec High when she arrived as a freshman, an act of generosity that helped her feel comfortable at the school.
“That’s how she is – she reaches out to individuals,” Current said. “Casey is a pay-it-forward person.”
Jordan’s cheerleading meets took her around the country, and she always made new friends, Current said.
During the past few weeks, Jordan had been preparing to cheer at the Orange Bowl, a college football game in Florida.
She had qualified before, but never made the trip. This time, her grandma encouraged her to go because it was her last chance before graduation. They recently went on a shopping trip to buy some new clothes to celebrate.
Jordan was always filled with ideas and excitement, according to family and friends.
The on-the-go teen drank five cups of coffee a day, loved red and purple and could make any child smile.
Fritz Polk, an Aztec High U.S. history teacher, said she would always walk into his classroom and yell, “What’s up?”
“She knew how to get a laugh,” Polk said.
In a recent poem, Jordan pondered life’s fleeting moments.
“Think about it – all the things you’ve done today … the places you’ve been, things you touched, songs you heard, conversations you’ve had, will soon be memories or even worse, they will be forgotten,” she wrote.
The day before she died, Jordan said she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life, but it was “going to be fabulous.”
David Williams, a relative, said she accomplished a lot in a short time.
“Casey was going to make a big difference in this world,” Williams said. “She’s still going to make a big difference.”
The remembrance ended with a massive bonfire under the stars in Aztec. As the crowd sang “Amazing Grace,” firefighters lit dozens of wooden pallets until the flames rose high.
Faverino said Jordan’s mother, Jamie Lattin, thought it would be a fitting tribute to hold a special bonfire and give the community a chance to “send their prayers up to the heavens.”