It was a difficult day for a tight-knit community. It was one year ago Tuesday that five people passed away at a Bikers Who Care charity toy run at the Clarksville Speedway. High levels of carbon monoxide were found in their rented RV. The detector did not have batteries.
"She was so beautiful, her smile was so pretty," remembered Skylar Hughes, a student of victim Katy Over. "I know everybody would wish they could see that smile again."
The flag flew at half staff in front of West Creek Middle in Clarksville Tuesday, in honor of teacher Katy Over. Inside the school, 15-year-old Hughes stood at a podium in front of West Creek Middle eighth graders with a message inspired by her mentor, teacher and friend.
"If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have thought about these speeches," said Hughes, remembering Over. "I wouldn't have thought about speaking in front of everybody. I know if she was in the crowd, she'd be giving me a thumbs up."
Blind in one eye, Hughes said she was once consumed with self-consciousness until Over shared a deeply valuable lesson.
"She taught me not to care what others think because in a few years, those people aren't going to matter anymore," said Hughes.
"I think she and coach Over really connected over one of her twin boys having a small hair lip," said West Creek Middle teacher Lauren Drake. "I really think that helped Skylar see how the physical doesn't matter. It's so much more about who you are, and I think Katy really played a large role in helping her that way."
Hughes lost her mentor when Over, Over's husband, Jon, and friends Jim Wall, Tim Stone and Allison Bagwell-Wyatt passed away at last year's toy run.
Speaking in front of Jon and Katy Over's twin boys, now in the care of two grandparents, Hughes said she's proud to have held donation drives and met with state leaders in an effort to spread carbon monoxide awareness.
"Most of all, thank you coach Over," Hughes told the crowd. "You're the reason why I'm standing here today."
Hughes was met with thunderous applause and an embrace from Katy Over's mother. Through Hughes' efforts with local lawmakers, Sept. 18 is now the statewide Carbon Monoxide Awareness Day.
"There's very few people you can look up to like that," Hughes said of Katy Over. "I know I'll remember her forever."
A memorial was held Tuesday night for all five people who died last year, with family, friends and Bikers Who Care members gathering at the Clarksville Speedway.
With the support of the Bikers Who Care and family members of those lost, earlier this year Gov. Bill Haslam signed a law requiring renters to acknowledge RVs have a working carbon monoxide detector before they're taken out.