December 17, 2012 - 9:48 AM
When Kiera-Leigh Carlson headed out her front door around 8 p.m. April 30, 2010, she would have walked right past the van her parents had given her.
She couldn't drive it yet; she was 22-years-old but didn't have her drivers licence. Three more lessons and the van was hers.
Instead she had to walk again on her usual five-kilometre route to work at Boomers Night Club, a task she enjoyed and often made by choice. But she never made it to work that night. She was hit and killed by a car speeding on a residential street.
The driver in that inexplicable accident has been charged and tried and awaits a final verdict on his culpability. That's about the driver. This is about Kiera. And if all you knew about her was what you learned from police and the court—a girl walking to a night club—you might have gotten the wrong impression.
"So she was walking to work at a bar and that somehow makes her irresponsible?" asks Kyla Grant, who has known Carlson since high school. She says her friend is much more than "the girl who died" and that she wasn't a careless party girl.
As Carlson marched to work that evening, it was cool and dark. Rain was in the forecast, but Carlson wouldn't have complained. She loved to walk, no matter the weather, the distance, or the shoes she had on.
"She'd be out walking in giant high heels, and say, "my feet don't even hurt," Grant recalls. "She always kept positive, no matter what."
That night, Carlson wore an uncharacteristically understated outfit: Jeans and a light-coloured top. The attractive young woman was well-known for her crazy outfits, including a leopard print coat with a hot pink lining.
"I met her in that coat," Grant says laughing. "God it was ugly, but somehow she pulled it off."
Her wardrobe reflected her confidence. She didn't care what others thought. Her friends say nothing embarrassed her, and that she was simply "happy all the time."
"Nothing was ever average with Kiera," Grant says. "We'd never just hang out and watch a movie."
Carlson didn't go through life hoping for the best or settling for what came easily. She carved a life for herself that was full of fun, excitement and joy.
"She knew what she wanted and she fought for it," Grant says.
Same went for her friends. They called her "the mom of the group" and say she wasn't afraid to share her opinions when it mattered.
"When I wasn't making good decisions, she was always vocal about it," says Amber Louis. The two women were friends for two years, and Louis says Carlson brought both humour and guidance to her life.
"She'd just bug you until you couldn't be mad anymore," Louis says. One of Carlson's favourite moves of good-natured annoyance was to smear food on people's faces to get them laughing.
On her final walk to town, Carlson was thinking about Louis. They'd had a disagreement a few days before, and Carlson texted her.
"I knew we were OK after I got that message," she says.
Earlier that day, Carlson had lunch with her parents, Bev and Len. They had catching up to do after some time apart.
"She was the type of person whose stories could be told in one or two sentences but... she took her time with them," Bev says with a fond roll of her eyes.
During their luncheon, Carlson gave her parents an exciting update on her romantic life.
"She was in love," says her mother. "That was the last long-winded story she ever told me."
Carlson's parents dropped her off at home and said goodbye to the youngest of their three daughters. Nothing prepares a parent for what happened several hours later. The phone call from police. The accident.
"When she was a kid, she'd hang onto my purse, and I'd say "get out of mommy's bubble," Bev says. "Now I'm like, get back in mommy's bubble."
Bev always knew her daughter was a social butterfly, touching everyone she met. What that looks like is 450 people attending her celebration of life. Her bubbly personality proved a stronger boost than the beverages she served at the bar.
It's hard for her friends to let go. Grant listens to the silly Youtube videos Kiera made, just to hear her voice and the goofy sounds she used to make.
"Her laugh is the most beautiful thing you can hear," Grant says.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2012