Stray snowflakes and white balloons floated through the air in King Friday morning as Stokes County residents paid their respects to the victims of the recent school shooting in Connecticut.
About 50 people gathered at King Central Park for the Angels of Sandy Hook Memorial Service organized by local residents who wanted to honor the shooting victims on the one-week anniversary of the tragedy.
Tim Tilley of King Christian Center spoke at length about the victims and what is important in life. With seven kids of his own, Tilley got emotional as he talked about the 20 children who were killed.
“This whole world has been robbed of doctors, lawyers, teachers of the word,” he said, imagining what the children would have become.
But Tilley drew upon his faith to remain positive. “(God) took them home to a kingdom,” he said. “They don’t have to hurt anymore. They don’t have to worry about the things of this world … Earth has no sorrows that heaven cannot heal.”
The minister read the names of the victims. Each time a name was read, Kenzie McPherson rang a bell. Some attendees released white balloons into the air.
Prayer by Tilley was followed by a moment of silence close to 9:38 a.m., one week to the minute after the shooting. Robby Voss performed “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes, then Danielle Shackleford read a poem widely circulating on the internet about the victims in heaven on “the night before Christmas.”
Tilley delivered final remarks, telling people to ask themselves as they left, “What really matters?”
Alena Bates, who spearheaded the event, said she thought the community response was awesome. The Food Lion store on Highway 66 donated balloons and donuts for the event and Talley’s Florist donated an arrangement made up of 26 white roses. People left items such as stuffed animals and cards under the Christmas tree at the park. They also signed a card which will be sent to Newtown, Conn.
Bates, who has a six-year-old daughter, said the tragedy in Connecticut hit her especially hard, and she wanted to remember the victims in some way. So she got a permit from the city of King to host the event with the help of some other people in the area.
The area around the Christmas tree in King Central Park will serve as a memorial site now through Dec. 31. Bates encourages people to visit the site for reflection and to leave items under or around the tree.