One week before his high school graduation, 18-year-old Kazzie Portie was met at his Orange County, Texas, home by a uniformed police officer. He was told the tragic news that his parents had died after a pickup truck crashed into their motorcycle.
The officer, Lt. Eric Ellison, told KBMT-TV that telling the high school student his parents were dead was one of the hardest things he has ever had to do.
The 18-year-old told the officer about his upcoming high school graduation and how his parents had been so proud of him and excited to see it, so Ellison promised Portie that he would be at his high school graduation to support him.
“I said, ‘You are going to walk! Your mom and dad will have front-row seats looking down from heaven, and I’ll stand in their place. I’ve got your back,” Ellison recalled to BuzzFeed News.
On Saturday, when Portie accepted his diploma, Ellison was waiting for him at the end of the stage to give him a big hug.
“I walked up on the stage he looked at me and I looked at him and we both cried, and that’s OK,” Ellison said.
When Portie’s name was announced, the entire auditorium erupted in cheers as he made his way across the stage and eventually into the arms of the Texas cop. Ellison said the Montagne Center “was the loudest I have ever heard it.”
Blake Henning, identified as Portie’s older brother, later uploaded a video of the special moment on Facebook:
This was such a special moment. Thank you class of 2015 for making this such a memorable occasion for our family. So proud of you @kazz418 I love you so much. Throughout all of this you have been so strong and we are so proud of you. Thank you for being such a great brother. I am so excited to see what the future holds for you. I know mom and bubba are so proud of you. Again, love you brother and thank you for being who you are.Kazzie Portie
Posted by Blake Henning on Saturday, May 30, 2015
The driver who hit and killed his parents, 29-year-old Travis Collins, was arrested and charged with intoxication manslaughter, and he faces two manslaughter charges as he is accused of driving drunk.
“The life struggles you see out here, it was rough on the kid, on the family…Sometimes life is not fair but you have to go on and I think Kazz is going to do that,” Ellison said.
Late Sunday night, Ellison posted a message on Facebook, thanking people for their support.
“I am HUMBLED for the positive comments I’ve received about being there for Kazzie,” he wrote. “I just want everybody to remember that through this tragedy, this was ALL about Kazzie and his day to shine. I just did what I would want someone to do if I had left my girls early,” he added.
Portie told BuzzFeed that he could not describe how much the standing ovation meant to him.
“Seeing Officer Ellison there to congratulate me meant the world to me,” he said. “It was so nice to see that he actually showed a genuine care for me and my family’s situation instead of us just being another ‘case.'”
Kazzie said that he has received “never-ending” love and support from his community since his parents’ death.
“I’ll never be able to thank enough some very few people that stayed with me through the days and as well as everyone that helped me in any way at all and all the people praying for me and my family,” he said.