Locals mourn death of Dorset native in Las Vegas shooting
Readers: This story was updated at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday with additional reporting.
DORSET — Sandy Casey, a Dorset native and 2000 graduate of Burr and Burton Academy who went on to become a special education teacher in California, was among the victims of the mass shooting Sunday night at a concert in Las Vegas.
The news hit home on Monday morning as BBA acting headmaster Meg Kenny learned from one of Casey's relatives — one of her uncles is a school employee — that Casey died in the worst mass shooting in modern American history.
Family and friends gathered Monday at the home of her parents, Theresa and Steven Casey of Dorset, to offer condolences and support. The family, in a message relayed by friends gathered outside their home, said they would not speak publicly that evening.
In a statement, the family said Sandy Casey died at the scene of the Las Vegas shooting while attending with her fiancé and a friend.
“Her parents ask for prayers and privacy for her sisters, coworkers, students and large extended family,” the statement said.
The Washington Post reported that Casey was attending the concert with her fiance, Christopher Willemse, when she was struck in her lower back. She died in Willemse’s arms as he attempted to carry her to safety, the newspaper reported.
In a Facebook post, Willemse said "The love and support that she and I have received during these trying times just shows how important this wonderful woman truly was. She lived life to the fullest and made me the happiest man in the world. Im so grateful for the kind words and gestures, it means the world to me, especially for her."
Casey's story was also featured on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" on Tuesday morning.
Casey was a middle school special education teacher in Manhattan Beach, California, the school district said.
"This is unbelievably tragic and sad," Mike Matthews, superintendent of the Manhattan Beach School District, wrote in a Monday morning letter to the district. "This loss is impacting many of our staff members deeply."
Casey is a 2004 alumna of the College of St. Joseph in Rutland, according to a Facebook post in the college's alumni page.
A GoFundMe page established Monday to raise money for funeral expenses had raised more than $18,000 -- nearly double the initial goal of $10,000 -- as of Tuesday morning.
Kathi Bierwirth, Casey's former girls basketball coach at BBA and now head of the school's Target Program, said she's "known the Casey family forever" and coached Sandy Casey her senior season. She said Sandy's character reflected her family's values of treating others with respect.
"It would be any parent's dream to have a daughter like Sandy. She was such a great teammate, a great family member, a great student and had lots of friends," Bierwirth said, remembering Casey as "eager to learn. She would work hard regardless of the situation and was an inspiration to her teammates around her.
"It takes a really special person" to do the work that Casey did, she said. "That just kinds of sums up the way Sandy was."
"Sandy had a spirit about her, a sparkle," Kenny, a teacher when Casey was a student, said Monday afternoon. "She was so happy to be here. She actively threw herself into life on campus and brought this spirit, energy and enthusiasm that impacted her classmates and friends in positives ways."
At the school's weekly Monday morning assembly in the school gym, Kenny informed the student s and faculty — some of whom were not yet aware of the shooting — that Casey was among the victims. The students and faculty held a moment of silence in Casey's honor.
"It was a very hard moment," Kenny said. "But it was the right thing to do. We were gathered together as a community."
On Monday, U.S. Sen . Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., tweeted, "All Vermonters are further devastated to learn that Vermont's Sandy Casey was a victim in Las Vegas. Our prayers are with her and her family."
The shooting happened outside the Mandalay Bay hotel during Jason Aldean's performance at a three-day country music festival. The shooter fired on the crowd from the 32nd floor of the hotel with multiple firearms, killing at least 59 people and wounding hundred s .
Bennington Banner reporter Cherise Madigan and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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