It was a touching night of memories, reflection, and mourning in Pass Christian Tuesday night. The student body of Pass High honored the three teens involved in Monday's fatal wreck by holding a candlelight vigil.
It was a ceremony that nobody ever wants to see at a high school. Decorated posters with the words 'Stay Strong.' Candles, balloons, loving embraces, and lots of memories filled the high school courtyard.
"I think it's important in times of tragedy like this for people to come together, they need to be with friends, they need to just grieve together," said Beth John, superintendent of Pass Christian Schools.
She was devastated Monday evening to hear that a current student had passed away and a former student was struggling to survive. But, seeing the student body come together on their own to create such a moving ceremony brought comfort.
"I think we have the best students anywhere in the world, and they have such big hearts," said John.
After a prayer, in the spirit of the signs that read 'Fly High,' the crowd released hundreds of balloons into the sky. And then story after story, and candle after candle, Cody Ladner, Patricia Ladner, and William Smith were honored with a bitter sweetness.
"It's hard for everybody, and it's hard for me, but I've just got to keep my faith," Richard Baham said as he remembered his cousin, William, at the ceremony.
He said that although his cousin was gone, knowing Patricia Ladner was still alive was enough of an answered prayer.
"I'm still having faith that she'll pull through, you know. Doctor's answers really don't matter. It's all what God wants to happen," said Baham.
Believing that God wanted to bring his family and community together kept Baham strong.
"We realized that we all need each other and we all need to help each other out," said Baham.
As the school continues to work through the pain and loss over the next days and weeks, counselors will be provided for anyone who needs them. It was obviously a painful, yet meaningful, night for the Pass Christian community.
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