'A birthday for heaven': Hundreds attend Anchorage service for Cynthia Hoffman
On one side of Faith Christian Community Church Thursday, there was quiet. On the other, there was a father doing what no parent should ever have to do, and a massive group of supporters grieving with him and his family.
"I was hurting every night and every morning, having nightmares," said Tim Hoffman, father of Cynthia Hoffman. "When I knew what happened to my daughter, I lived it over and over in my head - but I didn't want her to go out over emotions."
Thursday evening, Hoffman, his family, and hundreds of people from across Alaska bid a final farewell to 19-year-old Cynthia, who was murdered in a brutal attack near an Anchorage-area trail last week.
"You know, I'm going to miss my child," Hoffman said. "I may act like a rock, but nobody is a true rock. Everybody has feelings - even Dad."
Throngs of community members from near and far arrived at the church on Thursday to honor the young woman.
"This turned out perfect," Hoffman said. "The people coming together was the best love I've ever seen, people that stood by my side was the best possible group that could be there."
More than 150 of the attendees were bikers, as Hoffman is. Some of the crowd was made up of friends, some family, some strangers, but all were supporters, whether of Cynthia, the Hoffman family, or simply another Alaskan in need.
"Nobody should have to leave this Earth the way that she left it," said Sarah Short, who only met Cynthia a couple of times but arrived via motorcycle to support the family. "We need to go back to our old-fashioned roots of taking care of each other."
Robert Organ, whose daughter went to school with the Hoffman family, was one of the many people in a crowd of supporters Thursday.
"It's been a tough road for this family," Organ said. "When my daughter found out what was going on, she was totally heartbroken.
"The young lady was assassinated," he said. "That's what this was. And I feel for everybody that has a child, because we haven't found the end of this yet."
Despite the visible and often overwhelming sadness over Cynthia's death, people outside and inside spoke highly of her and the happy memories made, cracking jokes and reminiscing on the good times that were had.
"We can't change what fate has done to people we've loved and lost and cared for," said a friend, one of many who got on stage to speak of the teen. "All we can do is keep them in our hearts and memories."
A close family friend said she could always tell when Cynthia was up to something.
"I always knew something was cooking, because the twinkle in her eye never left," she said.
Still, Tim Hoffman said that while he and the family are trying to focus on Cynthia's light in all of the darkness, they are mourning their loss, and he is set on securing justice for his daughter.
"I have one thing on my mind, and that's to send all six of them to hell," he said, referring to the half dozen people arrested in connection with her murder. "And I ain't gonna rest until it's done. And then, after it's all done, I'll show my emotions."
In the meantime, he has been comforted by all the people at his side supporting him, his family and his late daughter.
"She's going to have a place up there next to God somewhere, an angel looking over all of us," Hoffman said of Cynthia. "It's like my daughter is having another birthday, but the birthday is for heaven."