Students, staff honor memory of former student with candlelight vigil

Attendees of the memorial for Jeremiah Clinton release balloons in remembrance of his life and in celebration of his birthday. (Photo by Anna Appling)

A candlelight vigil was held at the high school Saturday, Feb. 6 to honor the memory of former student junior Jeremiah Clinton, who passed away in December.

Fine arts teacher Helma Groot said about 50 to 60 students, both current and former, along with staff and parents gathered to celebrate the life of their friend, classmate and family member.

Groot was one of the organizers, and she explained that the vigil was held Feb. 6 because it would have been Clinton’s 18th birthday.

Groot said that people came and went for about an hour.

“Balloons were released, we had some moments of silence and then we mostly just stood in a circle, and people who wanted to share memories of Jeremiah talked about memories of him,” Groot said.

After Clinton’s passing, Groot said she spoke with the students in her classes about how they were affected by the news.

“[The students] felt like we should do something, and so I went to the office to ask if we could create some kind of memorial for him,” Groot said.

The time to plan the event was limited, Groot said, so there was not much she could do in terms of publicizing it besides displaying the event on the school announcements and on social media.

She said that the vigil was very emotional, and it was the emotions of others that made the event so meaningful.

“There was a lot of crying, and it was hard standing there to not feel like wanting to cry,” Groot explained.

Senior Harriet Crandall was present at the vigil and emphasized the sadness of everyone who was there. She described the event as something that had to be done to honor Clinton.

“I was crying the whole time, to be honest, but it was nice that I got to see his family for the first time in months,” Harriet Crandall said.

Harriet Crandall said she spent a lot of the vigil thinking about her relationship with Clinton as a friend, which made her feel better.

“I think everybody was just trying to think about the best memories that they had with him, and it was a good time because, of course it was sad, but also people were happy just to be there,” she said.

Sophomore Audrey Crandall was also at the vigil and she said she took time to think back on Clinton’s life and what he meant to her as a friend.

“I don’t think he would have known that so many people cared about him,” she said.

Former student Justin Mauk said Clinton would have been happy knowing that everyone worked hard for this event to take place. He said that he was pleased that the event was organized, as he was close with Clinton.

“He was the kind of person that is cool with everyone, so he definitely would have appreciated it,” Mauk explained.

While Groot explained she was not very close to Clinton as a student, she was devastated when she learned about Clinton’s passing.

“I just knew him as a friendly face in the hallway…so in that way it wasn’t as much of a deep personal loss to me, but overall it’s just incredibly sad when somebody so young dies,” Groot said.

Mauk said that he believed the work put in to create the event was worth doing because it was a great way to honor Clinton and his loved ones.

“It was reassuring to his mom to show the amount of support that the school gave him and how much the school cared,” Mauk said.

Groot explained that holding this vigil for Clinton was necessary because it made a lot of people feel more at peace with the situation. She said she was happy that people showed up to support Clinton and his family.

“I think it was helpful for the people that were there and were close to him,” Groot said. “It was a beautiful thing.”