After accepting his diploma at his high school graduation, 18-year-old Kazzie Portie walked across the stage to find police officer Lt. Eric Ellison waiting there to give him a big hug. It was an emotional moment for the pair.
Less than a week before, Ellison had been tasked with delivering the horrible news to Kazzie that his parents had been killed in a car accident. The police officer, from Orange, Texas had been called to the scene on May 24 after Riley and Emily Portie were struck and killed by a drunk driver while riding on a motorcycle. The couple have five children.
According to BuzzFeed, Ellison later went to the Porties’ home and found the couple’s youngest son, Kazzie, there alone.
While he and Kazzie spoke, the teen mentioned that he was graduating from Little Cypress-Mauriceville High School in just a few days, and didn’t know what to do.
“I said, ‘You are going to walk!’” Ellison told BuzzFeed. “Your mom and dad will have front-row seats looking down from heaven, and I’ll stand in their place. I’ve got your back.”
Ellison kept his word; and on Saturday, the officer was there waiting by the stage during the graduation ceremony when a cap-and-gowned Kazzie stepped forward to receive his diploma.
“I walked up on the stage he looked at me and I looked at him and we both cried,” Ellison told KBMT of the poignant moment.
A photograph of the pair embracing has since gone viral.
Ellison wasn’t the only person there at Saturday’s ceremony to offer encouragement to Kazzie. A video captured by Blake Henning, Kazzie’s older brother, shows the entire arena giving the young man a standing ovation when his name is called.
“This was such a special moment. Thank you class of 2015 for making this such a memorable occasion for our family,” Henning wrote on Facebook. “So proud of you [Kazzie] … I am so excited to see what the future holds for you. I know mom and bubba are so proud of you.”
This was such a special moment. Thank you class of 2015 for making this such a memorable occasion for our family. So proud of you @kazz418 I love you so much. Throughout all of this you have been so strong and we are so proud of you. Thank you for being such a great brother. I am so excited to see what the future holds for you. I know mom and bubba are so proud of you. Again, love you brother and thank you for being who you are.Kazzie Portie
Posted by Blake Henning on Saturday, May 30, 2015
Ellison said that he’s been blown away by Kazzie’s “strength and courage” during this difficult time.
“You are an amazing young man, Kazzie,” he wrote on Facebook Monday.
Ellison, whose daughter also graduated from high school recently, said that while he has been moved by the words of praise that have been heaped on him, he insists that he didn’t do anything special.
“I just want everybody to remember that through this tragedy, this was ALL about Kazzie and his day to shine,” he wrote on Facebook. “I just did what I would want someone to do if I had left my girls early. God Speed Kaz, you've got a great future ahead of you.”