In New London, heavy hearts as students are remembered
NEW LONDON -- Students, parents, grandparents and school staff gathered in the morning chill Monday in front of the New London-Spicer High School to pray for comfort for a community grieving the loss of two teens who died from apparent suicide in separate incidents last week.
"We gather this day with heavy hearts," prayed the group of about 75 people in unison, from a written prayer that was distributed before the 7:30 a.m. prayer vigil. "Help us to support one another as we move through these difficult days."
The local ministerial association has been involved with reaching out to students and adults following the deaths. Pastors and other church and youth leaders organized the outdoor prayer service, held the same day as the funeral for Halee Lucas, 15. She died Wednesday.
The funeral for Zachary Jones, 18, will be this Wednesday. He died Friday.
The prayer asked God to "embrace" the families of Halee and Zach with love and to "draw close" to the students, faculty and staff of NLS as they grieve.
"Ease their pain," the people prayed, while asking for "strength and wisdom" for the school staff as they continue to support students.
The prayer included specific requests for protection and help for "every person who is suicidal" and those who have attempted suicide.
"Help us to communicate to them that they are needed, loved and valued," read the prayer, with the promise that the community would reach out to help them "now and in the future."
The community is addressing the sensitive topic of suicide and mental health with direct action, including the formation of a 20-member task force that's in the process of organizing a public forum.
The prayer concluded by asking for courage for the community to "move forward in love and peace."
At the end of the formal prayer time, some students huddled in tight circles and continued to pray while a group of parents walked around the perimeter of the school and prayed with each step they took.