Nearly a thousand people came. They held their candles, they held each other and they held a grieving family close with their presence.
The community surrounding George County Central Elementary School gathered Tuesday evening to mourn the loss of two of the school’s students and their high school-age brother, who all died Saturday in a one-car wreck.
The candlelight vigil was a show of support for the family and friends of Sierra Jean Dixon, 7; Terra Dixon, 9; and their 16-year-old brother, Spencer Havard.
The three were among seven people in a Kia Optima being driven by Jesse Edward Dickerson, 23, of Lucedale. Dickerson lost control and slammed into a sign on Mississippi 198 just east of Depot Road. The remaining four occupants, including Dickerson, were injured.
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Jackie Dixon, mother of Spencer, Terra and Sierra, was also in the car and was severely injured. She remains in critical condition at the University of South Alabama Medical Center.
The solemn memorial drew many tears as prayers were said and pastors offered words of encouragement.
“I believe through Jesus Christ that this family, that this community, can find peace,” said Pastor Dennis Laughlin, of the Lucedale Church of God. “Because we know there is hope that there is something better lying ahead in front of us.”
Central Elementary Principal Angie Murrah said the school district has prohibited her, as well as the school’s faculty and staff, from speaking to reporters. But she did have one comment: “We are blessed to have known each of these and to have loved them each differently.”
Joey Cochran, whose daughter is in the first-grade class Sierra attended, said the community is extremely saddened right now but showing strength by coming together.
He said it’s also a difficult time for some of the children’s teachers.
“It’s a hard time for the teachers who have to look at the empty desks,” he said. “After all this is done, they still have to look at (the desks). They see their faces that aren’t actually there.”
George County School District statement
“Our thoughts and prayers are with our families, students and staff during this terrible loss. We will always remember Terra, Jean and Spencer, and the wonderful memories spent with these children. May God give you and your family the strength and courage you need in this time of grief. We will continue to offer grief counseling and prayers as their classmates heal from this terrible accident.”