By Shawn Chitnis

BAILEY, Colo. (CBS4) – Students, teachers, friends and family gathered Sunday on what would have been the 18th birthday of Maggie Long for a celebration of her life a little more than two weeks after she was killed in a fire inside her home.

(credit: CBS)

“Maggie Long was one of my best friends,” said one student speaking to the crowd gathered at Platte Canyon High School. “One thing that I don’t think she ever really knew though is how much of a role model she was and will continue to be in my life.”

The ceremony featured a choir Long belonged to and sang with earlier in the year. They did a rendition of “Seasons of Love” from the musical “Rent” a song the group had performed with Long. She loved music and had obsession with Lady Gaga, according to one of her teachers.

“When we were in New York City and she found out that she was standing at Radio City Music Hall within 24 hours of when Lady Gaga would be standing in Radio City Music Hall, she was so excited that she could barely contain her energy,” the teacher shared with the audience.

(credit: CBS)

Another source of inspiration for Long was former Vice President Joe Biden. The teacher reviewed the words of both Biden and the pop star to find the right saying that represented Long. Lady Gaga had a quote the teacher felt captured exactly what Long did every day.

“If you are a really good human being,” she said to the room. “You can try to find something beautiful in every single person, no matter what.”

Another teacher said Long left a lasting impact on him that still stands out above all his other students.

“Over my 20 plus years of teaching,” he said. I’ve encountered some truly remarkable students but honestly, none more remarkable than Maggie Long.”

He was joined by other teachers as a speaker along with some of Long’s classmates throughout the afternoon. One by one they went up to the podium before a large crowd at the school and another set of people watching from a different room. The service was also streamed live over the internet. But that teacher also shared the words of his former student to demonstrate the maturity Long had achieved even before she became an adult.

“I realize that I am fortunate to have more opportunities than my parents,” he quoted Long. “Their sacrifices will enable me to pursue my interests and having a meaningful impact upon others.”

Shawn Chitnis reports for CBS4 News at 10 on weekends and CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. throughout the week. Email him story ideas at and connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.


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