High school graduation ceremonies are among life's most important events. Watching friends stride across the stage to accept their hard-earned diplomas can fill a student with pride and joy, and hearing commencement speeches from classmates can help them prepare for their next phase.
Thanialee Cotto-Felix nearly missed all this.
The senior at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School near Boston, Massachusetts, was critically wounded in an apparent drive-by shooting days before her graduation and was hospitalized, according to the Boston Globe. With her graduation ceremony days later, it looked like Cotto-Felix, 18, would be missing her school's ceremony, depriving her of the opportunity to share this momentous occasion with her friends, coaches and teachers.
The news that Cotto-Felix's tragic injury would preclude her from the ceremony cast a pall over it.
"This is not the graduation that a week ago they would have imagined - the truly joyful event you want graduation to be," Cambridge Superintendent Jeffery Young told the news source. "And that is kind of what life is some times."
But, using video conferencing technology the recuperating teen did in fact get to share this proud moment with her peers and family. In fact, Cotto-Felix was able to do much more. With the tragic experience only days behind her, the brave student used the opportunity to reflect on how fragile life can be, and how much sweeter its milestones can be in the face of this precariousness.
Using online conferencing - and dressed in her cap and gown - Cotto-Felix spoke to her classmates.
"You guys, we finally made it" she said from her hospital room, according to the new source.
Her fellow students filled the school's auditorium with applause as they rose to their feet for a standing emotion miles away from the speaker.
The mood of the rest of the ceremony was similarly balanced between somber and joyous, the news source reports. While Cotto-Felix was wounded in the shooting, one of her classmates, Charlene Homes was killed, according to the local CBS affiliate. Her brother, Kenyatta, graduated along with Cotto-Felix and accepted his diploma to another thunderous round of applause, according to the Globe.
"Boy, what a courageous young man," Young, the superintendent, told the news source before the ceremony. Young recognized the sadness of the moment, but also the reason for the other graduating seniors to be proud of their accomplishments.
"You are allowed to swim in the excitement of the moment," he said during the ceremony, according to the news source. "You have earned that right."
Back in the hospital, through the connecting technology of internet conferencing, Cotto-Felix must have agreed with this sentiment.