CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. - There were toddlers playing all over Stiglmeier Park on Tuesday evening. Two-year-olds, three-year-olds, some maybe as old as seven or eight years old, all enjoying a new playground in the back of the park.
It is Isabella Tennant's playground.
But she was not there to see it. Last August, she was murdered in Niagara Falls while staying at her great-grandmother's house. She would have been six years old earlier this month. She would have started Kindergarten last fall.
But Tuesday was her day. At 5:30 in the evening, Isabella's friends and family joined numerous politicians, reporters and members of the general public for a ceremony to dedicate the new playground to Isabella, a $30,000 project funded largely by community donations.
"Every day is a memory," said Debra Tennant, the aunt of Isabella and brother of her father. "It will bring happiness to our family, knowing that other children will be able to enjoy that, smiling, laughing, as Isabella would have for years to come."
Tennant said Isabella's death has "destroyed my brother's world." A public relations representative for the Tennant family said Mike Tennant did not want to speak on Tuesday, simply because it would be too difficult emotionally for him to get through it.
"We're just trying to take it one day at a time," Debra Tennant said.
Mike and Isabella's mother are separated, but they are both reeling from the loss of their daughter. At the unveiling of Isabella's plaque on Tuesday afternoon, only Debra spoke briefly at the podium. After that, the crowd dispersed, enjoying catered ice cream and the sounds of children playing on Isabella's swingsets and plaground equipment.
"She'd be really excited," Debra Tennant said. "I think she'd be happy. She'd be thrilled. Just to see the kids having fun here... she always wanted to see everybody happy, everybody smiling."
"She'll see it, though. She'll definitely see it."