Vail terror victim energized everyone she met
And that’s what the vibrant, 23-year-old, part-time Vail woman – killed Oct. 11 by the explosion of a terrorist’s savage car bomb in Bali, Indonesia – has left behind as an indelible and incredible legacy, Bill Casner says.
“She lived so much more than most people ever live in a lifetime and gave so much to so many people,” Bill Casner says. “She left so many people with so much. She made us all better. And that’s her No. 1 legacy.”
Though she grew up in Texas, Vail was Karri’s spiritual home, where she loved to ski and hike. The Casners frequently visit their home in Eagle-Vail while Karri often took shifts waitressing at the Red Lion in Vail Village.
“Vail was such a big part of her life,” Bill Casner says. “She spent a lot of time there and would always go back. It was her spiritual home – she loved the mountains, she loved to ski. And she was an absolutely incredible skier – she just floated over the snow.”
Bill Casner, his wife, Susan, and their daughter, Kayce, 25, Friday night brought Karri’s body home to Flower Mound, Texas, from the far-away island where she’d gone to scuba dive, surf and continue a seemingly never-ending adventure around the world.
When the bombs exploded near a row of discotheques on Kuta Beach, the Casners knew Karri was there. In the days after, they were unable to contact her. First, Kayce, who had been nearby working in Cambodia, found her sister’s passport in her hotel room. Then, Thursday night, Karri’s body was spotted in the rubble.
“The way I picture her that night was at that bar, meeting new people. I imagine her there with that smile on, just making people happy like she always did,” says close friend Graham Frank. “I hope her last day was as good as all the wonderful days her friends got to spend with her.”
“The people in her life were her priority,” says Kayce Casner, 25.
Karri graduated from the University of Colorado in May with a degree in business. She had spent much of the summer in Vail and then traveled to southeast Asia with Kayce and Kayce’s boyfriend. They took scuba diving classes in Thailand, and then Karri went on to Bali alone. She was supposed to return home Oct. 10 but extended her stay because she was “having the time of her life,” Bill Casner says.
She had also conquered two of her fears – diving and traveling alone – he adds.
“She’d tried to go diving before and had a bad experience in one of the first sessions and bailed out,” Bill Casner says. “It was something that was an unfinished task. And she decided to give it another chance and she discovered a world few people have seen.”
Friendly and fearless
Frank, who attended the University of Colorado and spent plenty of time in the Vail Valley with Karri, says she was a dynamic presence among everyone she knew – from her family to close friends to first-time acquaintances.
“She was a constant inflow of life to everyone,” he says. “The thing I think everyone will remember first is the way Karri could walk into a room and the presence she would bring – the smile and warmth that would come into a room.
“She made every person in the room feel happy and welcome,” he adds.
The warmth extended even to strangers, Frank says
“If someone felt excluded, Karri was the conduit to bring the person into the group,” he says. “Her mission in life was to make sure everyone felt welcome and was having fun.”
But along with the compassion, came an extremely brave and driven young woman, Frank says.
“Inside that warm, soft individual was the strongest, most driven and adventurous person I’ve ever met,” he says. “She was willing to take on the world – willing to take on everything.”
But Karri was never one to brag about her accomplishments, Frank says.
“If somebody told Karri she couldn’t do something, that would make Karri prove to everyone she could do it,” he says. “But she would never come back and say, “I told you so.’ She would came back and say, “If I can do this, you can do this,’ and, “This is what you’ll get out of doing it.’
“She was the most unselfish person,” he adds.
Time of her life
Bill Casner says his daughter was deeply committed to her studies and pushed herself to get good grades.
“I think she did it to please us,” he says. “But any task that was handed to her, she always did her best.”
Aside from parental motivation, Karri was fueled also by a rare wisdom, he says.
“She was wise beyond her years and so mature beyond her years, and always was from the time she was a child. She was always 10 years older than she really was,” he says.
“Sometimes our roles would become reversed,” he continues, “and she would become the parent and I would become the child. We might be talking about her sister and she would say, “Daddy, there’s something else you need to think about.'”
With her bright and engaging personality, friends and family agree, Karri could make friends in an instant.
“The universal thing about Karri was she touched people – people she would only know for a day or two,” Bill Casner says. “She had the ability to make friends instantly everywhere she went.”
“She brightened up days,” Frank adds. “She brightened up days for everyone. From a person who knew Karri from a day to person who knew her in-depth for years and then on to her family, you get the same sort of reaction – not that we are all in mourning and sad and we have missed out and are going to miss out, but that we are so lucky to have known Karri in what ever capacity we did.”
“When anyone remembers Karri,” he adds, “a smile will come to their face. You can’t think of a bad experience with Karri Casner.”
Clark Anderson, Kayce’s boyfriend and Karri’s close friend, also says Karri had true friends everywhere she went.
“She was close to so many people. She spent time in Colorado, grew up in Texas, she’d been living in California,” he says. “It was just remarkable how many friends she had in all those places. She was totally engaged in life.”
Karri’s friends and family are comforted that Karri was so happy during the last few days of her life, Anderson says.
“She was having the time of her life. We’d received a couple of e-mails from Bali, and she was just having the time of her life,” Anderson says. “For us that’s a comfort. And it’s a comfort we’d like all of her friends to know.”
Fueling for the future
Karri hadn’t made any concrete plans for her future, but was taking some time off to explore her options and see some more of a world she’d already traveled extensively in, says Bill Casner, who is part-owner of a thoroughbred horse farm in Kentucky.
“She was exploring so many options,” he says. “She’d thought about different careers. She’d thought about going into the family business. She’d thought about starting her own business.
“But when you’re 23 years old,” he adds, “the world is not always well-defined. Karri was taking time to find direction. Still, she was incredibly motivated and self-disciplined.”
Karri spent a semester of college sailing from Cuba to the Bahamas to South America to South Africa to India. It was a defining experience, Bill Casner says.
“That was one of the things that was a life-changing event for her,” he says. “She came back a much broader person.”
But, Frank adds, she wasn’t done exploring after she came back from her long sailing trip.
“Karri loved to live and that was what was so refreshing about her,” Frank says. “She had every opportunity in the world – we got back from our semester at sea and Karri immediately went out on another adventure.
“There was never a threshold Karri trying to reach,” he adds. “It was just a happiness, a new thing – a small new thing like a new hike in Boulder, a new sunset, or a huge, new thing in Bali.”
One of Karri’s recent goals was to be close to her family, Bill Casner says.
“She was such a family person. She always took time to spend quality time with us,” he says. “This year, she wanted to spend a tremendous amount of time with us and she had.”
In the Vail Valley, the woods between Eagle-Vail and Beaver Creek Mountain were one of her favorite places to hike with her friends, Frank says.
“If Karri is somewhere watching over us, Karri does not want us to be sitting around and crying and boo-hooing,” he says. “She would rather us be adventurous and be the people that went out with her and always had a blast.”
And there was no part of Vail she wasn’t thrilled to ski – from the steep Back Bowls to the monstrous moguls under Vail’s Chair 11 to the groomers on the front of the mountain, Frank says.
“Karri loved to ski everywhere – maybe rip bumps all day or ski in the back all day,” he says. “But those end-of-the-day groomers with Karri laying down on her edges and just flying, you’d stop and Karri would always come down and blast you with a huge smile. She’d do that every day, every end of the day skiing,” Frank adds.” Whether it was the worst weather or sunny day, she always came down with a smile.
“Karri always brought you back to what was important.”