On the eighth anniversary of the Carson City IHOP slaying, a gift from one of the victims finally made it into the hands of its intended recipient.
Sgt. 1st Class Miranda McElhiney — who was among the four people killed in the morning shooting rampage Sept. 6, 2011 — crafted a ceramic bowl for her then-2-year-old little girl, Lily, 21 years ago.
But Lily, 23, never saw the bowl. Although the two had a close relationship, Miranda gave Lily up for adoption at birth.
“She was just so young she couldn’t take care of me,” Lily Hansen said. “She needed to put me in a safe place.”
In the clay, Miranda engraved her own name and inscribed: “To Lily. Love Mom,” along with the year “1998.”
“This is the only time she ever referred to herself as ‘mom.’ Normally, I called her Miranda,” Lily said. “That means a ton.”
It was that inscription that caught the eye of Bobbie Paul, who bought the bowl nearly two years ago in a local thrift store, after a storage unit belonging to McElhiney was auctioned off.
“I bought it because it’s pretty and purple, and purple is my favorite color,” Bobbie said. “When I got home and turned it over and saw what was written on it, I was like, ‘Oh that’s so sweet.’ Then I recognized the name and thought, ‘Wait a tick.’”
Since then, she has been trying to track Lily down to return the bowl.
“People have thought I was crazy,” Bobbie said. “But I lost my mom, too, and I know how much it would mean to have something from her.”
Friday, Bobbie finally found Lily, who was in town for the annual IHOP Shooting Memorial Run, to honor McElhiney, 31; Lt. Col. Heath Kelly, 35; Master Sgt. Christian Riege, 38; and civilian Florence Donovan-Gunderson, 67, who were all killed in the shooting.
Lily ran it with her grandfather Ret. Maj. Ken Curtzwiler, and appreciates that the community continues to remember McElhiney and the other lives lost.
“She was a hero in some ways,” Lily said. “She really took care of people that day before she died. Rumor has it, she was helping people get out.”
On Friday, Lily cupped her hands around the bowl, the same way her mother cupped the clay when forming it in 1998.
“It’s funny because I’m super artsy,” Lily said. “I love doing stuff like this. And it’s perfectly made.”
The same color that drew Bobbie to the bowl, connected Lily — whose favorite color is also purple — to it as well.
The significance, though, ran much deeper.
“She clearly loved you,” Bobbie told Lily. “It’s written in clay.”
But Lily never doubted her birth mother’s love.
“She gave me the life I needed to live,” Lily said. “Without her, I wouldn’t be who I am.”
Up until Friday, the bowl sat on Bobbie’s kitchen counter. She used it to store her odds and ends.
Lily plans to put her mother’s dog tags in it and display it with the flag draped across McElhiney’s casket at the funeral.
Although Bobbie loved the bowl, she is not sorry to part with it.
“It was never really mine,” she said. “My bowl is gone, but my heart is full.”