"The Voice" singer Christina Grimmie was shot at a Florida concert venue as she signed autographs for fans after a show. Police say a man walked up to her and shot her. Grimmie died a few hours later. USA TODAY
When I walked into the Plaza Live on Friday, June 10, all I could focus on was how excited I was to be with good friends, seeing the members of a band I love — Before You Exit — doing what they love in their hometown.
I paid little attention to the fact that venue security had barely glanced at my bag as they sent me inside. We all had to toss our water bottles and granola bars in the trash as we filed in — standard venue procedures. No big deal.
Soundcheck and meet-and-greet with Before You Exit members Connor, Riley and Toby McDonough came and went. Cade Larson, the first opening act, took the stage for a few songs and left. He was pretty talented, I remember thinking.
Then Christina Grimmie took the stage, heading straight to her keyboard to perform her rendition of Drake’s “One Dance.”
I remember having watched Christina progress through each round of the NBC talent show The Voice, season six. Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine was her coach, and she ended up placing third overall. I didn’t follow her or her music closely after that, but I remember thinking to myself as I watched her on TV, “This girl has an unmatchable voice.”
It took me too long to realize that she also had an unmatchable, unique and vibrantly beautiful personality.
Christina grew up in Evesham, New Jersey, and her zest for life and love of all things Nintendo — specifically the Zelda video games — were two things that helped shape her personality. USA Today reported that her mother battled with cancer most of her life, and that, along with her unwavering faith in Jesus Christ, were two of her biggest inspirations throughout her life and her music career.
As I watched her perform onstage Friday night, I snapped photos. I took a couple of video clips. I hadn’t been following her closely since her time on The Voice, but I was quickly reminded of how talented and energetic she was. This girl hit every high note she aimed for, and the crowd knew it, cheering her on. Her smile was infectious as she interacted with the audience.
She left the stage, and Before You Exit took over. I was in the front row near the barricades, singing out the lyrics, swaying to the music, taking photo bursts and having the time of my life.
Christina came back on stage to sing the cover she and Before You Exit had done of James Bay’s “Let It Go” and hugged each of the boys after, smiling from ear to ear before she left the stage.
If only I had known I had just witnessed Christina Grimmie’s last performance — the last song she’d ever sing.
After the show, my friend and I walked out back to the tour bus in hopes of being able to chat and take photos with the boys before they had to leave.
The next thing I knew, security was running in all directions toward the fans, screaming, “Run! Run! There’s a shooter!” At first, I thought it was a sick ploy to get us all away from the bus so the boys could leave in peace. But who would joke about that?
We took off running, my friend and I hopping into another fan’s car so she could bring us back to my car in front of the venue. We got into my car, shaking hard and trying to process what had just happened.
Minutes later, I found out that Christina had been shot. Others might have also been shot had her brother Marcus not jumped on the shooter and tackled him. I didn’t know what to say, what to think.
Fast forward a whirlwind four hours later to the moment I found out Christina didn’t make it. I broke down in tears countless times that night. USA Today later reported that her shooter, who I refuse to name, had two guns, two magazines of bullets and a knife.
How could this have happened? Where was security in all of this? God forbid I bring in a water bottle, yet a deranged man can get away with sneaking in myriad weapons? What was this man’s motive, anyway? Who was he? What provoked him to target her? What made him think he had the right to take away an innocent life?
The answers to these questions are being investigated, yet we might never know some of them. That makes me angry.
What I do know is that this experience will forever haunt me, my friends, the other artists and every single person present at Plaza Live that night. I know that the Grimmie family lost a daughter and sister. Before You Exit, the crew and Christina’s friends lost a beloved friend. Fans lost an incredibly talented and selfless artist. The world lost a ray of light in a dark world.
But I also know Christina didn’t die in vain. She radiated joy, encouragement, life and love, and no person can ever take that away. In those final moments, there’s nothing more comforting than knowing she was doing what she loved, surrounded by people who loved her, and that she was steadfast in her faith always. Her beautiful voice may have been silenced, but her legacy never will be.
Danielle Hendrix previously worked as a reporter and editor for the Central Florida Future. She now works at the West Orange Times.