At the young age of fifteen, Cassidy Stay of Texas has lived horrors that no one could wish upon even their cruelest of enemies. Yet, in the face of imminent death and the loss of her loved ones, she proved to be a true Griffindor and moved J.K. Rowling into sending her a rare handwritten note. From the depths of the internet, dear readers, we bring you the true tale of this heroic Potter fan and reason number 976245827414 for why J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter books are awesome.
On July 9, 2014, Cassidy’s entire family – including her father Stephen (39), mother Katie (34), and siblings Bryan (14), Emily (9), Rebecca (7), and Zach (4) – was killed in their home in suburban Houston. Surviving the brutal attack, she managed to alert the authorities and had to play dead until the armed gunman left their house. Then, days after the horrible incident she displayed a rare breed of bravery and quoted Dumbledore (the fictional headmaster of Hogwarts, wizarding school from the Harry Potter series) at a memorial event for the rest of the Stays. Bringing everyone to tears, she said:
“In The Prisoner of Azkaban, Dumbledore says, ‘Happiness can be found even in the darkest times of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light’. I know that my mom, dad, Bryan, Emily, Becca, and Zach are in a much better place and that I’ll be able to see them again one day. Stay Strong.”
Cassidy, who missed a bullet aimed at her head, was later able to identify the shooter as her ex-uncle. She attended the memorial service with her grandfather and spoke to nearly 400 people gathered in her support. Soon after the ceremony, her sympathizers started an internet campaign in the hopes of getting author Rowling to meet her and a post on the Facebook page stated that a friend of Cassidy’s has confirmed that she was sent a handwritten letter in the voice of Dumbledore along with a Hogwarts acceptance letter, a wand, a list of school supplies, and a signed book from J. K. Rowling. Rowling’s spokesperson Rebecca Salt wrote to Today:
“We can confirm that J.K. Rowling sent Cassidy Stay a letter and package, but the contents of the letter and how it came about are private and between her and Cassidy. We’re not commenting any further on the letter or what it contained.”
Of course, having battled depression herself, Rowling gives back to her fans and community generously and makes it a point to keep contributing to the lives of those that she has touched. She was famously dropped from Forbes magazine’s list of richest people because her hefty donations to charities no longer qualified her as a billionaire; and a few years ago, in an event that the entire Potter fandom is aware of, Rowling wrote a similar letter as this one to another young girl suffering from anorexia. Evanna Lynch, that young girl in question, took Rowling’s words to heart, overcame her illness, and ended up starring in Warner Bros’ Harry Potter movies as the fascinating Luna Lovegood. As Ollivanders would say, “I think we must expect great things” from Cassidy as well.
After all, just last week the world got news of three new psychological studies that show how young readers of the popular Harry Potter series grow to become more empathetic, open-minded, and accepting of societal differences after being exposed to the books. Admittedly, previous research had already suggested the significant role that literary fiction plays upon fostering children with positive attitudes towards different races, but the conclusion from these separate studies was that reading Rowling’s Harry Potter books in particular tends to reduce prejudice and bigotry – especially towards our immigrant and LGBTQ communities – amongst children, teenagers, and possibly adults. Cassidy might just spark another study that shows how Rowling’s books brings out the hidden bravery in people.