Chelsea White graduated this afternoon from Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School, where she was a basketball standout.
But what should have been a happy day was tinged with grief. White's father was killed in a crash Saturday morning, after a tractor-trailer ran over his car on Interstate 95, near Port Orange.
"I know he really loved me, and he did everything he could for me," White said today, an hour before she was set to graduate with her classmates at The Centro Asturiano in Ybor City.
"When I wanted something, he did his best to get it for me. We loved each other."
Christopher White, 40, of Titusville, was stopped in the emergency lane early Saturday morning when a tractor-trailer hauling liquid nitrogen hit and ran over the Mitsubishi, the Florida Highway Patrol told the Orlando Sentinel.
"He was a big impact on me because he's my dad and I love him," White's grief-stricken daughter said. "Every child wants a father figure in their life."
White, who transferred from Spoto High School in August 2011 just prior to her senior season helped guide the Phoenix basketball team to a district runner-up finish, as well as a Class 3A-Region 2 semifinals victory in February against Lakeland McKeel Academy.
The 18-year-old also was one of several players that helped Spoto into the playoffs for the first time in school history.
She was offered athletic scholarships from several universities and junior colleges but elected to play basketball for and attend Patrick Henry Community College in Martinsville, Va.
To honor White's father, Brooks-DeBartolo Principal Kristine Bennett was planning to offer a moment of silence at today's graduation ceremony – which, for White, was not the cap she was expecting to her high school career.
"I'm not really excited right now," White said. "I'm just sad and hurting."