Texas City High School graduates remember classmate who committed suicide

TEXAS CITY, Texas (KTRK) -- As Stingaree Stadium filled up with soon-to-be high school graduates and their families, a single chair wrapped in white cloth with a blue ribbon remained empty.

Texas City ISD reserved that spot in memory of Brandy Vela, a high school senior who committed suicide last year after police said she was the victim of cyberbullying. Two people were arrested, charged with unlawful disclosure of intimate visual material and online impersonation, among other charges.

Brandy would have graduated Friday, along with the rest of her Texas City High School Class of 2017.

"Going to school, it's hard, it really is," said Michelle Vela, Brandy's younger sister. "No one really knows what you feel, you know?"

The Vela family placed flowers and graduation balloons at Brandy's grave Friday morning before the ceremony.

Brandy's father Raul hopes the empty seat at the graduation ceremony will remind people to be kind to each other and to pay close attention to unusual behaviors in loved ones.

"I could tell certain things about Brandy, you know, she was very beautiful, she loved makeup," Raul said. "She would spend hours in front of the mirror. And I do remember the last couple of weeks that she would just throw her hair up in a knot and go. That wasn't Brandy before."

Michelle is channeling her sister's love for makeup as she gets ready for her role as an Honor Guard in the graduation ceremony.

"She fought a lot, you know," Michelle said. "I want people to know that there's something else you can do, you know, we're here for them, the family is here for them."

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