When 21-year-old Katie Worley found out her choir group at UNC Asheville was invited to sing for President Barack Obama at a White House Christmas gathering, she was ecstatic.
"It's not something that pops up often, getting to go to D.C. and sing at the White House," Worley said.
But just hours before Friday's performance, news of the school shooting in Connecticut turned her excitement to heartbreak.
She said the choir questioned if it was still appropriate to sing, and figured the president would cancel his appearance.
"It was really difficult. We really didn't know what to expect, we didn't know what we were walking into," she said.
With the tragedy fresh on their minds, the group made minor changes to their lineup. And to everyone's surprise, both the president and first lady still came to hear them sing, and even smiled and shook hands afterwards.
"They have a responsibility to portray themselves in a certain way, and I felt they handled it in an absolutely flawless manner," she said.
Though she wishes she could have met the president under far better circumstances, Worley hopes she at least helped to lift his spirit.
"Music is there to help people out, and that's exactly what we did. So I'm actually grateful that on all days we could help spread some cheer," she said.