2-27-12 Remembered in Chardon
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Beneath the cold, rainy skies, guided by police and fire escorts, hundreds of Chardon High School students walked up North Street from the high school to Chardon Square for a brief memorial vigil Wednesday afternoon.
As they walked to the square, the students — who were there to remember those shot by classmate T.J. Lane on Feb. 27, 2012 — passed beneath a large American flag from a Chardon Fire Department ladder truck parked on Court Street.
At the square, speakers included Chardon Schools Superintendent Joe Bergant, high school Principal Andrew Fetchik and high school senior class officers Jill Allenby, Adam Benjamin, Jessica Mysyk and Will Porter.
Speaking from the Chardon Square gazebo, Allenby compared her senior class and the Chardon community to a steadfast red ribbon wrapped around a tree near the high school.
“Standing strong and tall, it embodies who we are at Chardon High,” said Allenby, who explained the high school’s red and black colors now have a new meaning for students.
“The black represents the loss that we’ve suffered — the mourning that has occurred and how it will always be a part of who we are,” she said. “Red represents the fire that is now set in our hearts to try to make a difference in this world one step at a time.”
Although there is a need for students to “move on” and look toward their futures, Allenby also talked about what the absence of fellow classmates Demetrius Hewlin, Daniel Parmertor and Russell King Jr. will mean during this year’s senior graduation ceremony.
“We will always remember the three extra chairs that would have been there beside us,” she said.
Everyone, especially victims’ families, handled Wednesday as it came, said Holly Walczak, mother of Nick Walczak, who is paralyzed from the chest down after the shooting.
“I?think we all dealt with it the same way, it was minute by minute,”?she said. “I know Nick ... he slept until 5 o’clock (Thursday), in the afternoon. It’s emotionally exhausting. It’s amazing to see everybody get together and the support, but it’s nice that we can all try to move on, at least try to. And then, the trial ... it was a busy two days, but a good two days, that’s for sure.”
Tuesday, Lane plead guilty to three counts of aggravated murder, two counts of attempted aggravated murder and one count felonious assault.
“It felt great, it really did. It felt like a huge burden was taken off our shoulders,”?Holly said regarding Lane’s plea. “I think everybody’s spirits were a little higher than usual. You know we’re all grateful we don’t have to go through a trial. A long trial would just have hurt a lot more. It was nice to see that he finally did this; I just wish he would have done it a lot sooner.”
The Candlelight Vigil
Hour’s later on Wednesday, more than 700 people gathered around the gazebo during an evening candlelight vigil to commemorate the day.
“We have always known that our community pride and dedication to service when it comes to helping others in a time of need has always been second to none,” said Chardon Fire Chief Larry Gaspar, one of several speakers. “Nothing is more evident then how our community has come together over the last year. Our desire to help one another through troubled times is what makes our community one of the greatest places to live, visit, or to just pass through.”
The Rev. Dean DeCarlo held out a lighted lantern representing what he called the International Peace Light, which he said originated in Bethlehem with the birth of Christ.
“This light gives us hope, that even though there is much darkness in the world, we can still see signs of loving and peaceful community,” DeCarlo said as he asked the lantern be passed around the crowd.
“We can still see people living together in harmony, and working together for your peace and justice,” he said.
DeCarlo also read a message from the families of Hewlin, Parmertor and King thanking people for their continuous thoughts, prayers and signs and red ribbons of support over the year.
“Each has been a reminder to us, not of our loss, but of the lives of three wonderful boys who we will always love and cherish — Russell, Danny and Demetrius,” the message read. “Tonight, as we reflect with our families and community — we are not only victims of a tragedy, but survivors who can hope, heal and celebrate the lives of Danny, Demetrius and Russell as well as Nick, Nate, Joy and all the other children at the school that day.”
In remembrance of their sons, the families asked the Chardon community to light candles on the birthdays of Demetrius, March 8; Russell, Aug. 12; and Danny, Sept. 9, “to keep their light, love and memories alive.”
Other speakers included the Rev. Dan Redmond, pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church and Chardon Mayor Phil King, who recalled a service at the church following the tragic shootings.
That service, he said, offered prayers for the three students and allowed shaken Chardon residents to comfort to each.
“But tonight is different. We meet to continue to heal and get stronger one step and one day at a time,” said King. “We must continue to forever remember (Hewlin, Parmertor and King) by growing together as one community through ongoing acts of kindness and love.
“This must be how we remember Feb. 27, 2012,” added King, who concluded the vigil by reading several Bible passages.
Around 7:30 p.m. at the high school, several lanterns were launched into the air, which Holly said was one of the highlights for her personally.
“The lanterns were probably the best part of the entire day. Just watching them all glow up in the sky and the people ... the people’s spirits were really high, like finally, we’re all done crying for the day,” she said. “And the walk, watching the kids walk up to the square.”
Roads Named in Memory
State Rep. John Patterson, D-Jefferson, also honored the one-year anniversary of the shooting by introduced legislation that would designate three memorial highways for King, Hewlin and Parmertor.
The portions of roads that would be memorialized are parts of state routes 44 and 6, and Claridon and Aquilla roads.
In his address to the Ohio House, Patterson said, “Today, we pause to remember Demetrius, Russell, and Daniel, who lost their lives that day.
“While we honor these cherished lives that were lost, let us also remember Joy, Nick and Nate, who were wounded that day. And finally, difficult, though it might be, let us also remember T.J. (Lane),” Patterson said. “All of these vibrant, young adults had their future ahead of them on that day. And now their dreams and our dreams for them have been irreversibly altered.”
As a former teacher and coach, Patterson said, “I?have grieved and mourned with students and their parents when death, in its darkest forms, steals our youth.”
“As a parent, I can only imagine the pain that occurs when our deepest fears, as parents, are realized when we lose a child,” he said. “In a perfect world, no parents would bury their young child — and yet we know this happens far too frequently for we live not in a perfect world.”
Helping the Community Heal
In addition, the Chardon Healing Fund and the Geauga County Board of Mental Health and Recovery Services also announced the creation of a partnership to help meet the mental health needs of Chardon area residents affected by the shooting.
Jennifer Deckard, chairwoman of the Chardon Healing Fund and president of Fairmount Minerals, said $250,000 of the more than $950,000 raised would be set aside for community mental health care needs.
The process will include an agreement between interested local mental health care providers, the mental health and recovery board and the Chardon Healing Fund.
All billing should be sent to the mental health and recovery services board offices, 13244 Ravenna Road, Chardon 44024, while only aggregate totals by an agency will be sent to the CHF board for payment, Deckard said.
“This process allows the behavioral health care experts in our community to oversee both the behavioral health needs and specific treatments that are being provided,” she said. “In turn, the CHF can assist with the financial needs, while protecting the confidentiality of individuals.”
Additional information on how to obtain provider agreement, visit www.chardonhealingfund.com and click on the “NEWS” tab or contact Kimm Leininger at 440-285-2261 ext. 222.