WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - While firefighters know what caused recent UNCW graduate's apartment to burn, family members are still dealing with their loss.
23-year-old Rory Michaelson lost her life in a fire at Cypress Pointe Apartments Saturday. Her mother, Susan Michaelson Finely, learned about Rory's death on the news later that night.
Susan is still coming to terms that her beloved daughter died just four days ago. She said she last saw Rory alive on New Year's Eve.
She said they had spent the past three weeks celebrating Rory's graduation and a teaching job she was going to start in New Bern.
"What we're struggling to come to terms with in our family, Rory had graduated with honors, she was loving what she was doing," said Susan. "She landed a job. She was excited about continuing the next chapter in her life."
Susan said Rory loved kids, especially children who had overcome obstacles. She was going to be teaching special education at an elementary school.
"She wanted to be in a place where she could make a difference," said Susan.
Rory's mother said her daughter helped her family get through tough times by having humor during the hard times.
"Rory was joy - she always made you laugh," said Susan. "When you when you be in the corner crying, she would say come on we have to get through this."
Now, for the first time in 23 years, Rory's family has to go through a tragedy without her there to help them.
Susan said she and her family are thankful for all the support they've been receiving from the community.
"Minute by minute and day by day - people have been wonderful, friends and family," said Susan.
A celebration of life ceremony will be held on UNCW's campus Thursday for family, students, faculty and staff. It will be held at 5:00 p.m. in the Warwick Center.
Michaelson's boyfriend, Cory Benoit, was with her the night of the fire. He is now at the Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill, listed in critical condition.