"She's easy to love," West Richland family shares memory of sister lost in Las Vegas
RICHLAND, Wash. – A West Richland family recently returned home from a vigil to honor a lost loved one who was a victim in the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
A beloved sister, a perfect aunt, and a kind friend to everyone.
"I'm so proud of her and the life she led," Diane Hawkins said of her sister.
At 32 years old, Michelle Vo had a spirit that captivated those she met almost instantly.
"I've seen her make friends in less than 10 seconds, that's probably a record," Diane said with a laugh.
Smiles and laughter come easily as Diane speaks of her youngest sister.
“She’s easy to love,” Diane’s husband Jeremiah added.
That Night In Vegas
Michelle was at the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival in Las Vegas when she was shot in the chest.
“From the moment it started it feels like a nightmare that you just can't wake up out of," Diane said.
For nearly 10 hours during the confusion, Diane and Jeremiah called all 17 hospital in Las Vegas in hopes of finding her.
Jeremiah was on-and-off the phone with countless operators.
“He says to me, you don’t understand how chaotic it is here," Jeremiah recalls. “There are doctors performing surgery in the CAT scan room. Every room is filled and nobody knows what’s going on, or who’s who. We’re just trying to save people.”
Eventually, they got the call from the doctor who broke the news that Michelle didn’t make it.
Diane said it feels wrong to lose a sister, a best friend, someone who is supposed to stay with you your whole life.
"To lose your sibling, especially at such a young age,” Diane said. “I just can't even describe, it's like an emptiness, it’s a void of complete loneliness."
But in the frantic hours while searching for Michelle, Diane said a stranger was there to help.
"He's like our guardian angel,” she said. “He was the only one there for her."
A man named Kody Robertson befriended Michelle just three hours before the shooting. Then he devoted the next 24 hours to protecting her, getting her medical attention, and finding answer for the family.
"That was a really tough night, and it was made little bit easier by Kody," Jeremiah said.
When asked why he stayed, he told Diane he didn’t want Michelle to be alone.
“I wanted to find her for you,” he said to Diane.
Kody stayed in Las Vegas to meet the Hawkins and he gave them an account of Michelle's last moments. She was happy. She told stories of family. She had fun.
"It was comforting in an event like this,” Diane explained. “It brought peace to me to know she had a good time. That’s what she's about.”
Hundreds of people came to honor Michelle at her vigil this past weekend in California, which is just a glimpse of the number of people she impacted during her life.
Following the news of Michelle’s death, people from around the world started reaching out to Diane to tell her about how much her youngest sister influenced them.
“I met Michelle when she backpacked through Europe,” one message said. “She made a huge impact on me.”
Then another came from someone who knew her back in junior high.
“I didn’t know Michelle well, but she stood up for me and defended me from a bully,” another person explained.
These thoughts came as strong reminders to Diane of the kind, independent, charismatic woman her sister was.
"When she spoke to you, she made you feel like you've been friends for 10 to 20 years,” Diane said. “It’s the way she looked at you and the way she made you feel."
Michelle was a woman of mantras. When cleaning out her sister's apartment, Diane found inspirational quotes sprinkled throughout her place.
The sayings embodied the woman she was and the woman she wanted to be. A favorite quote of Michelle’s was that of Maya Angelou’s.
It goes: People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
"That is so her," Diane said. “That is her legacy.”