MANSFIELD Nothing feels good right now. Being together is probably as close to good as they can get.

'I think it's a good way for the kids to cope,' said Lauren Cady, a teacher and coach at Mansfield ISD's Brooks Wester Middle School. 'It's a process. We know we're going to go through it together. It's going to take a long time, but it's going to be OK.'

Cady taught and coached Tiffany Phu for two years. On Wednesday Tiffany, 13, ran two miles on the Wester school track as part of her gym class. It was just before the school day was to end.

She crossed the parking lot, where her mother was waiting to pick her up. She waved at her mom, went inside the building and collapsed.

Tiffany battled asthma and suffered an apparent asthma attack. An ambulance rushed to campus, but Tiffany couldn't be revived.

On Thursday students wrapped their campus in green, Tiffany's favorite color. They hung green ribbons from trees and covered hallways with signs. They brought in flowers and donations.

On Friday everyone wore green to school, then came back Friday night for a tear-filled vigil.

'I'm having trouble understanding it. Everybody is,' one friend of Tiffany's told the crowd. 'I just want to tell everybody don't say goodbye, say 'I'll see you later.''

The vigil was on the same track where Tiffany had run her final few steps. Her family sat facing the stands and a crowd of hundreds surrounded them from every side.

Tiffany was described as a quiet, confident, witty, athletic girl.

'She was one of those kids that was friends with everybody,' said Cady.

Her friend Maddie Wood said the same thing.

'She always had the biggest smile on her face. And she knew how to comfort you if you needed her.'

Friends took turns sharing stories, and when one choked up, another would come to their aid and finish it for them.

Tiffany's sister Michelle got up to thank the crowd and broke down, but a pastor helped her through.

'It warms my heart to know Tiffany had so many people who loved and cared for her,' Michelle said. 'Today we not only honor her by coming together. We celebrate her by showing her she'll live on in our hearts forever.'

They released hundreds of green balloons as they cried. Thirteen is too young to grieve. And it's certainly too young to be gone.


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