When Alaina Joann Petty was 6 years old, her father took her to the movies to see “Furry Vengeance,” a comedy about a group of wild animals that band together to stop greedy real estate developers.
But even though she was just a little girl, Alaina’s sarcastic sense of humor was already in bloom. Instead of siding with a cute raccoon that blocks traffic during a scene in the film, her dad said Alaina shouted out to the screen, “Just run him over!”
The anecdote provided a brief moment of laughter to the more than 1,500 relatives, friends, students and Junior ROTC members who gathered at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Coral Springs on Monday morning. They assembled to celebrate the life and legacy of Petty, 14, one of the 17 students and teachers murdered during last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Alaina was remembered by her parents, Ryan and Kelly Petty, and her three older siblings, Ian, Meghan and Patrick, as a girl who was confident and loving and inspiring to others. They reminisced about her innate camaraderie and her desire to help people in need, such as the victims of Hurricane Irma. The family said they were overwhelmed by the support they had received, with condolences coming in from as far as Australia.
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“I’m touched at how much love is being shown to my family,” said Meghan, who delivered half of her eulogy in fluent, eloquent Spanish, a language she and Alaina had both studied. “I love her. We didn’t say that to each other very often, but the relationship I feel for my sister can’t be described by words. We used to do this dumb thing where we said, ‘I’m proud of you, fam.’ I hope every decision and act I make from here on will make her proud of me.”
All of the family members mentioned how their strong Mormon faith has been instrumental in getting them through the last few days.
“Faith gives us comfort during this time,” her father Ryan said. “Alaina’s mortal probation is complete, but her eternal service is beginning. We love you, sweetie, and we will see you soon.”
Patrick, 17, also attends Douglas High and said he and Alaina were the two siblings who fought and got in trouble the most often — but also loved each other.
“I just don’t know how to describe what I’m going through,” he said. “My father said Alaina is with her grandpa now and they are there together. This has helped me through these tough times. I know that I will see her again. It may be years away from me, but it will be just minutes for her.”
Ian, Alaina’s oldest sibling, said he hadn’t spent much time at home during the last seven years due to college and serving church missions. But he had been amazed at how much taller Alaina was getting and how quickly she was becoming a woman.
“While she will be missed terribly here, if we all exemplify what she did, her legacy will live on through small acts of kindness,” Ian said.
Alaina’s mother Kelly was the last family member to speak, most pointedly expressing the pain everyone in the church was feeling.
“I’m not okay with Alaina having to leave us so soon,” she said. “I want her back more than anything I’ve ever wanted in my entire life. I know that our heavenly father loves me, and I hope to one day understand why he took her so soon. There’s a huge hole in our family right now.”