Terry Felix Jr. popped into his daughter’s room Tuesday as he did every morning to wish her a nice day, even if the 17-year-old as usual was still asleep.
“But I know she heard me, because when I told her, ‘I love you,’ she said, 'I love you too, Daddy, I’ll see you later."
But that rainy morning, as Kayla Winter Perry drove to school at George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology in Towson, she lost control of the car on North Charles Street, police said. It struck a curb at Bellona Avenue and went up onto a guardrail, sliding into a utility pole, police said.
A passing box truck struck some loose wires from the pole, which in turn hit Perry, who had gotten out of her car, police said. She was thrown to the shoulder of the road and later died at the hospital.
On Friday evening, a couple of hundred family, friends and classmates held a vigil at Carver, launching balloons into the darkening sky and remembering Perry, who had transferred to the school in 10th grade to join its dance department.
“Kayla was the most carefree person I know. She was always happy, and it just makes me sad now,” said Avery Porter, 17, like Perry a member of the school’s dance team and a senior anticipating graduation.
“I wanted to cross that stage with her,” Porter said.
As night fell, friends and classmates lit candles, decorated a fence and hugged and wept.
The shock of losing Perry remains raw.
Her mother, Shantae Mitchell-Dow, had seen Perry off to school the morning of the crash from their home in Owings Mills, telling her to text when she got there.
When she didn’t hear from her and didn’t receive a response to calls and texts, she tracked Perry’s phone. The location: Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The hospital, where Perry had been taken after the crash, would not release information by phone, Mitchell-Dow said, so she rushed over there and learned what happened.
The vigil gave her some comfort, Mitchell-Dow said. “I love the fact that we all came together to celebrate Kayla."
Kaiya Vickers, 17, a friend since middle school, called Perry her “soulmate." They both have birthdays in November, and were looking forward to celebrating together.
“I miss her so much,” Vickers told the crowd that gathered, breaking down in tears as Felix tried to comfort her. “I’m never going to be the same. I just don’t know what to do, or what to say."
Felix, taking his turn with the microphone, advised parents to "hug your daughters.
“Hug them when they don’t want it,” he said. “Hug them when they want it.”
The crowd, many carrying white and silver balloons, launched them into the sky. Afterward, many lingered at the school, finishing messages to the family on posterboards, and reminiscing together.
Vickers’ mother, Kelli Jordan, said she used to call Perry "my buttercup, because the inside of her is so sweet.
“She is definitely going to be missed.”
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According to Facebook posts and a GoFundMe page created to raise $5,000, services for Perry will be held at 10 a.m. Nov. 2 at Carver.