TAMPA - Hearing the pomp and circumstance music and seeing all the students in their graduation gowns wasn't an easy sight for Stacey Gimson. Her son was supposed to be among them as the senior class at Steinbrenner High School attended commencement ceremonies at the Florida Fairgrounds.
But Frank Vasquez was killed last October by a hit-and-run driver, and his death stunned the student community so much that hundreds showed up for a prayer vigil at the football stadium.
Thursday afternoon Vasquez would have received his diploma. But rather than ignoring the event, Steinbrenner's principal Kelly King invited Gimson to attend the ceremony and asked her to accept her son's diploma in his place.
"It was just an amazing opportunity to continue his legacy and let him graduate the way he always intended," Gimson said.
King announced to the crowd at the expo hall that Gimson was in attendance, and she received a standing ovation when her name was called.
"It was a joy in my heart," Gimson said after receiving the diploma.
To honor their friend, many students wore blue wristbands that said "Frank the Tank," as Vasquez was on the wrestling team.
Gimson said while she appreciated being part of the ceremony, it was still difficult not to think about her son, whom she lovingly called "Vic" for his middle name, Victor.
"I was sad," Gimson said. "Our ultimate goal was to have Vic here."
Dallas hospital confirms first Ebola case in US
A patient at a Dallas hospital has tested positive for Ebola, the first case of the disease to be diagnosed in the United States, federal…
Woman uses teddy bear as car pool lane passenger
The 19-year-old driver had a giant teddy bear in the front seat next to her.
FCC spikes sports blackout rule
The FCC wants an end to sports blackouts.
Mom catches man trying to rape 7 y/o daughter
One mom's instinct led to her catching a man who was allegedly trying to engage in a sex act with her 7-year-old daughter.
Online dating? Don't fall in love with a scammer
As online dating popularity grows, so does the interest of scammers who want to take advantage of those looking for love.
Couple leaves $100 tip for terrible service
One couple's quizzical generosity after an unpleasant dining experience is creating quite a buzz on social media.