Long before she tragically became “America’s daughter,” Gabby Petito was Blue Point’s girl.
The heartbroken community, together with neighboring Bayport, will honor the young woman’s memory with a special candle lighting event on Friday, Sept. 24. As part of “Shine a Light for Gabby,” participants are asked to light and place candles at their end of their driveways at precisely 7 p.m.
Around Long Island, and even across the country, others will likely join Bayport-Blue Point in lighting candles in unison for Petito, who grew up in Blue Point and graduated with Bayport-Blue Point High School’s Class of 2017.
In the meantime, many of Blue Point’s treelined streets are lined with teal blue bows and ribbons tied around the trees in tribute to Petito, 22, who died during a cross country trip she had taken with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie. The Johnny Mac Foundation, formed in wake of the Sept. 11-related cancer death of New York City firefighter and Blue Point resident John McNamara in 2009, donated the ribbons after Petito’s mother Nichole Schmidt chose the color.
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Schmidt is a longtime volunteer and current Johnny Mac board member. Her husband James, Petito’s stepfather, is the former chief of the Blue Point Fire Department.
From 2-6 p.m. on Thursday in the Blue Point Nature Preserve picnic and parking area off of Maple Street, residents are invited to purchase luminaries with a $20 donation that will go toward supporting the Schmidts and Petito’s dad Joseph and his family in Vero Beach, Florida.
Joseph Petito confirmed his daughter had been found dead on Sunday in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
An FBI special agent on Sunday reported that human remains consistent with her description had been located by authorities. Authorities results are pending.
Petito was reported missing on Sept. 11, more than a week after Laundrie, 23, returned home to North Port, Florida from the couple’s cross country road trip without her. The couple had moved their about two years ago.
Her disappearance captured the attention of the nation, with many accounts on social media — a forum that proved vital in enabling authorities to locate Petito’s body — referring to her as “America’s daughter” or “#americasdaughter.”
Laundrie has been identified by police as a person of interest in the case. But he is now also missing — since at least Friday. That’s when North Port Police in Florida learned from his parents, with home he and Petito had lived with, that he had been missing since leaving for a hike on Sept. 14.
The couple traveled all summer in Petito’s Ford Transit van, living what they called the “van life” and posting images and videos of the journey on social media.