Blacksburg community hosts vigil for Blacksburg High School students

Published: Nov. 11, 2023 at 10:04 PM EST
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - The Blacksburg community held a vigil Saturday for two Blacksburg High School students found dead inside a car Tuesday.

“She always makes me smile. Even though she’s gone, she still makes me smile,” said Serenity Hawley’s dad John Hawley.

The vigil was held in front of Blacksburg High School, where hundreds of people came together.

“Today we all come together grieving over the loss, but now we start the healing process, not as an individual but as a community,” said Blacksburg Police Chief Todd Brewster.

Hawley was found dead in a vehicle with another BHS student, a boy. Police haven’t revealed details of the students’ deaths, but Serenity’s parents say police told them that the boy shot Serenity and then himself.

“She’d have been so embarrassed,” confessed Hawley. “She’s like, ‘Oh my, oh my gosh, that’s so embarrassing. Why did you do this?’ is exactly what she would have said. And you know, then maybe when we got out to the parking lot, her favorite thing would have been like, ‘Oh, that was baller.’”

As the community held each other tight, leaders guided them through healing exercises.

“And take another breath for a time like this we can sometimes forget to breathe,” demonstrated Unitarian Universalist Reverend Pam Philip.

As the sun lowered in the sky, a choir sang music channeling the peace that filled the air.

“We want to be there for you and to be helpful, in any way that we can,” said Mayor Leslie Hager-Smith.

As the choir continued to sing, flashlights rose from the phones of friends and family.

Hawley said the best they can do to honor her life, is to contribute to the things she loved.

“Moving forward is to do something in her honor,” said Hawley. “For Young Life for DACA, the things that she was passionate about. And she was very here in probably the last two years. She’s very into church and you know, her faith, and so that that helps us sleep easy at night because we don’t have to wonder.”

“I’ve seen this community recover from tragedy many times. And each time we came back stronger, and we will again,” stated Brewster.