|Updated: 5/07/2012 9:21 am
||Published: 5/05/2012 7:47 pm
CONWAY, AR - It's a day full of celebration, accomplishment and the excitement of what's to come. But as University of Central Arkansas graduates look to their futures, two families can't help but think about the past.
"It was a hard long night," Tyran Block said, as he recalled learning of his younger brother's murder in 2008. "I didn't want to believe it. I still don't."
Chavares Block, 19, and Ryan Henderson, 18, were shot and killed on the UCA campus in October 2008. Four years later, their families sit to the side of the stage at the Farris Center, snapping pictures and cheering for graduates while imagining what the day would be like if Block and Henderson were also accepting their diplomas.
"You never get over it. You never forget," Henderson's mother Tamera said.
"He's not here in the present but he's here in the spirit," Block said.
During the ceremony, the University honored the two students' families with honorary associate degrees as the entire room erupted in applause.
"It's an honor to walk in his footsteps even though he ain't here to do it," Block said.
"We're honored that they're keeping the memory alive," Henderson said.
Crossing the stage is a milestone for any graduate as it symbolizes new beginnings. Even though the families aren't watching they're own graduates accept their diplomas, the message is still the same.
"Regardless of what obstacles we come by in life, there's no stopping," Henderson said.
In March 2011, Kelsey Perry pleaded guilty to murdering Chavares Block and Ryan Henderson. Perry was sentenced to 40 years in prison.