MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Graduation night is bittersweet for one Mid-South family.
In a way, they'll never recover from a tragic accident that took the life of a mom and her daughter six years ago.
Like so many other students around the Mid-South, the seniors at Senatobia High School filed in for their moment to shine Thursday night.
But there was one chair waiting for a student who will never sit down.
"I didn't realize they cared that much to still giver her a cap and gown," Larletha Evans said.
Evans' sister Mackala Ross, 12, was on her way to a birthday party with her mom and dad in 2012 when a speeding police cruiser hit their car on Crump Boulevard. The officer did not have his car's siren or blue lights running. Mackala and her mother, Deloise Epps, died in the crash.
"Her life was cut short. She might've been the first lady president, but we don't know that now," said Mackala's father Michael Ross.
“We don’t know what she based her career on but I know most definitely she’d have a career," Evans said.
Mackala's classmates, now Senatobia High graduates, gathered for commencement at Northwest Mississippi Community College Thursday.
They decorated one open seat toward the back of the room with a cap and gown.
“We would like to remember and honor Makala Ross, who tragically passed away when we were in the seventh grade," said Madison Nickens, senior class vice president.
And before they crossed the stage to launch in to their futures, they hit pause for just one moment to focus on the one person who didn't make it.
“Let us take a moment of silence to remember her," Nickens said.
“It means a lot to me to go to this graduation and celebrate as if Mackala was still here with us. That’s how I’m looking at it," Evans said.
Her father agreed.
“I’m still proud. Although she’s not here, she’s gone but not forgotten. She never will be forgotten,” Michael Ross said. "To talk about this right now makes me want to cry but they're tears of joy."
Her chair is empty but their hearts are full.
“It’s a moment we’ll never forget," he said.
They may just be the proudest family in the auditorium.
Former Memphis Police officer Alex Beard pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and aggravated assault in 2013. He served six months in prison.