AMHERST — It was there under the bright Friday night lights at Amherst football stadium where screaming teenagers were crammed into the stands.
That was the time and the place — the moment — Amherst High School students could prove what they would be remembered for long after the last snap of the football that night. A lot of people in the stands clad in the green and yellow colors of the Amherst Comets called it their moment of truth.
“Let’s hope they get this right,” said a women standing near the running track.
The students had a job that seemed simple enough — elect 17-year-old Morgan Stock as their homecoming queen.
They had to do it.
Morgan was one of their own.
She had been a Comet since she was 3 years old.
But Morgan also has always been different.
She’s blind, can’t walk and has an enlarged liver and an underdeveloped valve in her heart. She has some speech issues and developmental delays. As her mother, Michele Stock, put it, “You name it, Morgan has it.”
The “it” she has is called I-cell disease, and it affects every system in Morgan’s tiny — 31-inch-tall, 30-pound — body.
Today, Morgan is a high school senior, but when she was diagnosed at 6 months old — at that time just the 36th documented case of the rare disease in the world — her parents were told she would not live past 5.
Watching their daughter become homecoming royalty was not a dream Michele and Michael Stock dared to have.
But on this particular night, Michael Stock wheeled his daughter toward the football field and parked her stroller near the other candidates and waited. Morgan’s dress was black and gold. It glittered and she wore gold glittery shoes.
The other girls also were beautifully dressed in sparkly dresses and high-heeled shoes. Any one of them would have made the perfect homecoming queen.
The look on Michael Stock’s face said it all. It read of a father who would slay a dragon to get his daughter the crown. But he couldn’t do such a herculean task for his only child. He had to place his hopes into the hands of a bunch of teenagers.
“Morgan has always been one of the gang,” he said. “I think she has a good chance of winning.”
“I’m not worried,” Michele Stock said. “The kids have always been wonderful with Morgan. They accept her.”
The announcer started the short ceremony shortly before 7 p.m. just after the marching band took the field, ready to serenade their newly crowned queen.
“Let’s meet your 2013 homecoming court,” said a voice that blared over a loud speaker. “First up, we have Morgan Stock.”
Senior Logan Mahar lifted Morgan from her stroller and placed her in his arms as he walked down the field. The entire stadium erupted in screams and cheers.
The sound was so deafening it drowned out the announcer as he read the other names.
The girls and their escorts took their places beside Morgan. Each smiled and waited for what seemed like an eternity.
First, senior Aaron Soto was crowned king.
“And your 2013 homecoming queen is,” the announced began again.
Michele and Michael held their breath.
The moment happened.
The girl no one thought would make it to her teenage years was crowned the homecoming queen in front of her classmates, family and friends.
“I’m surprised,” Morgan said after the crowning.
When the bedazzled tiara was placed on her head, she tossed her head back and smiled wide while mouthing the word “yes.”
“I didn’t think I was going to win,” she said.
But such a fate for Morgan wasn’t an option.
“I’m going to go to college, get married, have kids and really get to experience some amazing things that Morgan may never get to do,” said Caylie Cabrera, 17. “I can honestly say I voted for Morgan. It was one experience I could give her and was happy to do it.”
Caylie’s name also was on the ticket. But she voted against herself so Morgan could win.
“She probably won by a lot, and I don’t care,” she said. “I don’t know her very well, but her friends tell me she has had a real impact on their lives.”
Getting Morgan nominated became the personal mission of her best friend, Alexis Arendt. She has known Morgan since the fourth grade. Morgan called her on the phone one day and asked if Alexis wanted to play. The 17-year-old said they have been friends ever since.
She took to every popular social networking site she uses — Facebook, Instagram and Twitter — to hashtag and status update Morgan into victory.
“I started around 7 p.m. the night before voting and kept it up all night and day,” she said. “Morgan deserved this more than anyone. The homecoming queen is supposed to support the school, care about others and set the example. That’s Morgan. She’s an inspiration to others.”
Alexis said she never thought her fellow Amherst Comets would flub their big moment to make Morgan smile.
“A lot of us really care about Morgan and put her before anyone else,” she said. “She’s always been our queen.”
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.