The pictures of three siblings hugging each other over the years, shots of the girls in bumper cars or on the water having fun, and photographs of their older brother doing what he loved best — fishing — brought to life the memories of three young lives that ended too soon.
A standing-room crowd of friends, family, classmates, teachers and others mourned the loss Wednesday of 7-year-old Sierra Jean Dixon, 9-year-old Terra Dixon and 16-year-old Spencer Havard at their funeral service in Leakesville.
A candlelight vigil had drawn nearly 1,000 people Tuesday night in support of the grieving family.
One by one, mourners stopped at the three white caskets to pay their respects to the siblings killed in a crash Saturday on Mississippi 198 just east of Depot Road in George County.
The driver, Jesse Dickerson, ran away from the crash but has since been arrested on four counts of felony leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death or serious bodily injury. There were six passengers in the car with Dickerson, including the siblings and their mother, Jackie Dixon.
Dixon suffered critical injuries and was unable to attend the funeral service because she remains hospitalized in Mobile.
The Rev. Charlie McNeil and the Rev. Bob McKenzie told mourners at the service to remember that though the loss is great, there is hope through Jesus Christ that will comfort them in the days and weeks ahead when they begin to question why the children had to die.
The pastors talked about how the children loved to attend church and had given their lives to Jesus Christ. The girls had spent their last Wednesday alive at church services. They loved to sing, the pastors recalled.
They said Spencer, an avid hunter and fisherman, and the girls are now at rest with the Lord.
“In the Lord, there is peace that passes all understanding,” McNeil said. “I know that may sound crazy to you this morning. It’s not that we have peace in ourselves, (but) we have peace in that we will see them again. This is not good-bye. It’s see ya later.”
Janet Hennessee, a longtime friend of Dixon, gave Casey Havard, Spencer’s father, a long hug outside Freeman Funeral Home before the service.
Hennessee said she hasn’t been able to visit Dixon for two days because of complications of her friend’s injuries, but she hoped to be able to return to the Mobile hospital with Dixon’s mother after the funeral.
She said Dixon’s right leg, which had to be cut at the knee at the accident scene, has since been amputated at mid-thigh. She said Dixon also lost several toes on her left foot and suffered rib fractures, a broken pelvis and a compound fracture in her right arm.
Hennessee said the family is devastated.
“There’s three innocent lives” that were lost, she said near where the three hearses were waiting to take to the children to their final resting place.
“Total devastation, there’s no other way to put that,” she said.
A steady stream of mourners, many of them children, had arrived at the funeral home during visitation.
Teachers and faculty who attended openly wept but were unable to share any memories of the students because they were advised to refer questions to the George County school superintendent’s office.