CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – For the first time, the parents of Kaitlyn Duffy sat down only with 10 On Your Side to talk about their daughter, their pain and how her classmates, and they, want to honor her at graduation.
Kaitlyn was killed in a crash on May 19 and her passenger remains in the hospital with critical injuries. Police say 31-year-old Jerode Johnson is accused of driving drunk, causing the crash on Indian River Road.
The family wants Chesapeake Public Schools to leave an empty seat in her memory. Just yesterday Great Bridge High School students told 10 On Your Side how they wanted to honor Kaitlyn Duffy at
graduation by having an empty chair properly displayed in line with other students.
The Duffy family has been through unbearable pain and suffering with the loss as the 18-year-old was only 28 days away from graduating. They blame Chesapeake Public Schools for failing to understand the importance of giving Kaitlyn and her friend Sabrina Mundorff, who was also in the car and at last word was in the hospital, empty chairs at graduation in row with other graduates.
“This is unbelievable grief, and this is not something we should be dealing with. It is not something we had to deal with whatsoever. It blows my mind that they are actually putting us through this,” says Kaitlyn’s father Scott.
Tammy Duffy, Kaitlyn’s mother, added, “I can’t even wrap my mind around it. It seems something so simple. You got two seats, they earned them, they should be open. That’s what the students want, we’ve talked with all their friends and that is what they want as well.”
When you go in the Duffy home, you are met with a memory table where it’s all the outstanding achievements of Kaitlyn. The prom earrings she will never wear, the Girl Scout Gold Award recognition given after her death, and a memorial service book with many of the 2,000 names of those who attended her funeral.
“She was exceptional since she was a little baby,” Tammy remembers her overachieving daughter with a 4.27 GPA, and the recipients of many academic awards. “She was reading books by first grade, and she read the entire first Harry Potter book cover to cover by third grade.”
Father Scott remembers the half-hug as she left the house on that fateful day of May 19.
“She came to say goodbye, and I was on the phone, it eats me up because I gave her a half-hug instead of a full hug,” Scott recalls. He then yelled “Drive safe, I love you.”
Tammy remembers the last text at 3:13 p.m. that afternoon, “She sent a picture of our puppy that perished in the accident she had taken to the beach.” Kaitlyn was killed by the suspected drunk-driver six minutes after that text. “I was hysterical.” I was yelling, ‘she’s gone, she’s gone.’ I was praying to GOD my baby is alive.”
The night before, the parents were supposed to go to a Jimmy Buffet concert. But they instead got a spiritual nudge to go to Academic Night for Great Bridge High School where Kaitlyn was honored.
“Kaitlyn had urged us to go to the concert, but we insisted we go,” Tammy says.
In hindsight they are so thankful they went, “I can’t imagine if we went to Buffet, how we would feel,” Scott says. Tammy adds, “She was hungry and said ‘can we please go out to the Butcher Son’ where she worked.” Scott chokes up thinking about that last meal with her, “It was the last time we had dinner together. It was hard because it was the night before she died. I am so glad we could have that last night with her.”
Now the Duffy’s say their pain is worse because they claim Chesapeake Public Schools is resisting their request for Kaitlyn and her friend Sabrina Mundorff.
“To us it is a no-brainer. We just don’t understand why,” Scott says.
“It is making out grief worse. We aren’t getting any answers on this,” says Tammy.
Kaitlyn’s brother Ryan, who is a freshman at Great Bridge, still hasn’t returned to school, but thinks his sister has earned the right to have an empty chair.
“This is unbelievable grief and this is not something we should be dealing with. It is not something we should have to deal with,” Scott says. “It blows my mind that they are actually putting us through this.,” Tammy adds.