The Middle Tennessee State University campus is all but deserted this week since students are out for the Christmas break. But that's not stopping the tributes for a teen who was killed in a crash.
MTSU student Emily Meadows was best friends with Taylor Stahlman, 19, from Dyer County.
"I was numb at first," Meadows said. "I didn't know what to think or how to react."
The two first met in a communications class at MTSU, but they got to know each other better when Stahlman pledged Alpha Omicron Pi (AOII) sorority in the fall of 2011.
"She was bubbly, outgoing and a free-spirited person," Meadows said. "She always had a smile on her face no matter if she was upset or not."
Stahlman died in a weather-related crash in West Tennessee Wednesday. Tennessee Highway Patrol officials said her car careened down a 30-foot embankment after she hit a patch of ice on a bridge. She was not wearing a seat belt, according to THP officials, and was thrown from the car.
"I cried so much," Meadows said. "She meant so much to me, and my sorority."
"Taylor was one of those people who never knew a stranger," said friend Katlyn Bradley. "Whenever she walked into a room, she would light it up and make everyone feel welcome."
Bradley said Stahlman had the biggest smile no matter what was going on.
"She was so passionate about life and AOII, I never knew Taylor not to give her all at whatever she did," Taylor added. "She influenced all my sisters' lives and everyone else at MTSU. We will always love and miss her."
Other friends of the MTSU junior communications major are also in disbelief; expressing their sorrows on social media.
"I'm not sure what hurt worse, the phone call I got yesterday or waking up this morning and realizing it wasn't a dream," friend Korby Clements posted on Twitter.
"Waking up and its hitting me all over again that I'm not (going to) see that smile of yours," friend Laura Locklear tweeted. "We all miss you so much."
Campus officials said even though the campus is closed for the holidays, the MTSU 'True Blue' spirit is in full effect.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ms. Stahlman's family and friends during this very difficult time," said Jimmy Hart, MTSU News and Media Affairs. "Even though we have a large university here, it's very close knit so it's a difficult time for our students."
Friends said Taylor was looking forward to moving in with her sorority sister into the former Alpha Gamma Pi house on Greek Row next fall.
Her last message was posted just after 10 p.m. Christmas Eve on Twitter, a message friends said they will always remember.
"Merry Christmas everyone! May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmas's be white!! #prayforsnow!" Stahlman tweeted.
Once students return, campus officials said if anyone needs counseling, resources will be available through student services to help them make it through this difficult time.
AOII members posted the following statement on Facebook:
"Our deepest sympathies and prayers are with the family and friends of Taylor Stahlman, a treasured AOII sister and member of our Rho Omicron Chapter at Middle Tennessee State University, who was killed in a weather-related car crash this morning. It is our hope that the women of Rho Omicron chapter can feel comfort in the strong bonds of sisterhood found within Alpha Omicron Pi during this difficult time."
The organization will have a draping of the badge when members of the sorority return after the holiday break.
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