The Garden State will certainly miss her. Beauty queens of past and present, as well as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Princeton University all mourned former Miss New Jersey Cara McCollum, who died early Monday, February 22, at age 24.
McCollum represented the Garden State in the Miss America 2014 pageant after being crowned Miss New Jersey 2013. Current Miss America Betty Cantrell, former Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri, and Miss New Jersey 2015 Lindsey Giannini all took to social media on Monday to remember McCollum.
Today, my heart goes out to the friends and family of Cara McCollum, Miss New Jersey 2013, and our MAO sister. Matthew 19:14.— Betty Cantrell (@MissAmerica) February 22, 2016
Miss America 2014 Davuluri, who competed in the national pageant alongside McCollum, penned a lengthy message via Facebook on Monday. "I love you dear Cara. Your loving smile and sense of humor touched everyone around you," the Miss New York 2013 winner wrote. "Your laugh was contagious. When we first met, we would both joke that NY and NJ were really from the South (her growing up in Arkansas and myself in Oklahoma). We both said that we would help each other navigate the east coast waters. Cara as you've said before, you earned your Jersey! And I know that one day, you will help me navigate again. Until then, sweet sister."
Davuluri also posted a message by Miss Massachusetts 2013, Amanda Narciso. "Today, so many of us lost our dear sister, Cara McCollum," Narciso wrote. "Each year, a group of 53 young women from coast to coast are united together in Atlantic City with one shared dream. Although strangers at first, we become something more than friends. From rehearsals, appearances, helping each other with hair & makeup, 5am wake up calls, cuddles and power naps under blankets, late night snacks, dressing room dance parties, to bonding over meaningful conversations about family, friends and ambitions. We laugh, we cry, we uplift one another. During the unique roller coaster of emotions we experience, all of us walk away knowing that there are only a few people who understand each of at us at the core: the 53 women who were alongside us for the ride. From meeting as strangers, to becoming friends, we leave forever bonded as sisters."
McCollum's 2015 successor, Giannini, also shared an elaborate Facebook post on Monday. "My heart breaks with sadness. I can't begin to put into words the sorrow I feel after losing my dear friend and fellow Miss New Jersey sister, Cara McCollum," Giannini wrote. "She was brilliant, beautiful, and the brightest of stars. The Miss New Jersey and Miss America sisterhood is so strong, and I am forever grateful to have gained a friend and sister through these wonderful organizations that bring so many people together. Cara touched so many lives and will forever be remembered for her beautiful spirit and selfless actions. I will continue to share her memory forever. Please pray for her family, Keith, and all those who were blessed to know and love her. Rest peacefully my dear friend."
McCollum died seven days after being critically injured in a car crash last Monday, February 15. According to local outlet NJ.com, McCollum was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of her crash.
Very sad to learn of the passing of Miss NJ 2013 Cara McCollum. Thoughts & prayers to her family, friends & the @MissAmericaOrg community.— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) February 22, 2016
The Arkansas native moved to New Jersey to attend Princeton, and graduated from the school in 2015.
RIP, Cara McCollum '15, a former Miss New Jersey who died today a week after an automobile accident. https://t.co/Q14nTXoPm3— Princeton University (@Princeton) February 22, 2016
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