Shortly after Audrie Pott died, students gathered around paper banners at Saratoga High School to write messages of love and remembrance, that the 15-year-old was "the sweetest person," a girl who helped with friends' makeup before dances, who "always had a smile" on her face.
Now, seven months after her suicide and a week after three boys were charged with sexually assaulting her at a drunken party and sharing photos of it, some of her classmates are organizing a candlelight vigil Friday. They want to remember her kindness instead of the tragedy that has made national news and pitted families, lawyers and the school district against each other.
Albert Fang, a Saratoga High senior, is helping organize the 8 p.m. vigil on campus, where he expects some 300 people to "honor the loss" of their fellow student, including members of Audrie's family.
Audrie had some problems in her life and had complained about jealousies and bullying the prior year, but her parents say the humiliation she suffered after the sexual assault was the key factor to her suicide on Sept. 10. The Pott family has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the boys' families and a civil claim against the school, which preserves their right to sue. The boys, who aren't being named because of their ages, each face two felonies and a misdemeanor involving sexual battery and distributing child pornography. Their families have refused to speak publicly and their lawyers have denied that Audrie's suicide is tied to any actions of the boys.
On Labor Day weekend, Audrie drank too much at a friend's house, passed out in a bedroom and woke up to crude messages scribbled on her body. In an interview with investigators, one of the boys admitted that the two others had touched her sexually, according to a report obtained by this newspaper. As photos of that night circulated, Audrie sent Facebook messages to her friends saying that "the whole school knows" and "my life in over."
The day she hung herself in the bathroom of the Los Altos home she shared with her mother, Audrie told her mother she was upset and "couldn't take it anymore," but despite her mother's pleas, wouldn't tell her what was happening.
The banners remained on campus for days. Dozens of friends and classmates who never met her filled up every inch of the butcher paper in red, green and black pen. At a news conference earlier this week, the banners were used as a backdrop to the Pott family who implored students to come forward if they knew anything about what happened that night.
"Never forget how beautiful, nice, thoughtful, creative and perfect you always have been," read one message. "I love you so much."
Another friend wrote, "you were the most amazing girl I've ever met. You cared about everyone around you. I always knew you would be there for me."
Contact Julia Prodis Sulek at 408-278-3409 and follow her onTwitter.com/juliasulek.
Fellow students will hold a candlelight vigil for Audrie Pott at 8 p.m. Friday at Saratoga High School, 20300 Herriman Ave.
For more on Audrie, go to audriepottfoundation.com