NORFOLK -- "I tried to capture how bright she was in this - but you never could," Emily Nielson said as she showed NCN a portrait-art of her cousin Hailey Christiansen, who died July 24th of 2020.
Christiansen's family gathered at Ta Ha Zouka Saturday for a balloon release in memory of the 29-year-old Norfolk mother who was allegedly murdered by Deshawn Gleaton. His trial is in September.
More than 40 people showed up from as far as Lincoln and Iowa.
"Today marks one year since Hailey was taken from us due to domestic violence," Hollie Christiansen, Hailey's sister, said. "We are just remembering her, and we are letting balloons go in remembrance, and will later have drinks at The O [Lounge Bar] for her. Hailey always said if you're going to get salty at least bring tequila!"
Hollie repeated, the way most family and friends seem to remember Hailey - as a bright star of a mother who always raised others up - such as her cousin Emily Neilson.
"She was my go-to for everything," Nielson said. "I was the black sheep of the family and she got me, she loved everybody. I moved away, but I could still always call her for advice. Everyone loved her."
Nielson said Hailey was the type of person you couldn't help but adore and feel loved by.
Jolene Clemens agreed.
"She was the light of the room. She had a laugh you would never forget," Clemens said.
She and others emphasized the day was not a celebration - but an effort to continue remembering Hailey. "Not only for the family but for her son Hazen, who we want to know we will never let him forget his mom," Clemens said.
Some dreamed the balloons could reach 6-year-old Hazen in Colorado.
"She had so many friends and a huge family, Hazen will never forget the memory of his mother," Clemens said.
"I think it just keeps Hailey out-there and remembered [...] and for the domestic violence part, we want people to know that they should get help. We never knew it would get this bad," Hollie Christiansen said.
Hailey's father told NCN how grateful he is that the whole community has been showing support for their family ever since the tragedy happened last year, with as many as 900 people showing up to her funeral.