Outside the house where their son was shot and killed nearly one year ago, Darryl and Tonnia Hawkins are back to give thanks.
"Our son gave us 22 long years. Some people say 22 short years, but the years that were given was very much appreciated," Tonnia Hawkins explained.
Her son, Darryl, was the youngest of eight people shot and killed during a football watch party at a house on West Spring Creek Boulevard last September 10th. Plano Police said Spencer Hight walked into the home he used to share with his estranged wife, Meredith. He shot and killed her and seven others gathered at the house, including a friend who served as the best man in Hight's wedding – James Dunlop.
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Dunlop's parents and brother joined Hawkins' parents and sister on Sunday evening for a small vigil outside the house.
Woody Dunlop said it was the first time he'd returned to the crime scene since the night of his son’s death.
"I've driven past many times, never thought about coming in," Dunlop said. "I wanted to come for this event this time to remember all those that were in the house."
The families set up a folding table with candles, pictures and a placard with the names of the eight victims written across it in front of the house. It appeared to be empty inside. Collin County property records showed the deed was transferred to a new owner in July.
The families brought balloons and passed around markers so friends and loved ones could write messages to the victims.
Tonnia Hawkins wrote her son's name on one of the balloons and the words, "I love you."
The small group stood in front of the house, released the balloons and hugged each other.
"That day last September 10th, my heart was just snatched right away from me like a thief in the night," Tonnia Hawkins said. She said her family, however, was now in a place of strength.
Darryl Hawkins, who shares a name with his son, said no family should have to go through what they've gone through – a senseless loss.
"We pray we have strength, we have courage and we have the wisdom to move forward as we face this tragedy day by day," Hawkins said.
The Dunlops and Hawkins said their sons did not know each other before the party, but they died together. Becky Dunlop, James' mother, said they were sitting in chairs, facing the TV when they were both shot.
Since the shootings, both families said they keep in regular contact.
Becky Dunlop said Tonnia Hawkins has been a source of strength for her.
She said James loved the Lord and she leans on that faith now.
"I know he's in a really good place," Dunlop said. "I'm glad I had him almost 30 years. I feel very blessed. He was such a wonderful son."
During the vigil, the only survivor of the shooting, Carly Shockey walked up to the group. Shockey was seriously wounded last year. As she approached the vigil, tears streamed down her face.
Tonnia Hawkins embraced Shockey and said, "Please don't make me cry."
Shockey asked for privacy as she visited with family members and friends on the eve of the one year anniversary of the shooting.
As Woody Dunlop explained, "Day 365 is as hard as day one."