Tragedies can bring a community to tears, but at the same time they can bring people together.
In Charlestown, that was the case as close to 200 family, friends and community members gathered Wednesday night to remember Kami Ring in a candlelight vigil held at Long Point Park.
Kami, who was 10, was found dead Monday near a home in Port Deposit where she was staying with surrogate grandparents. Maryland State Police are continuing to investigate, and a police spokesperson says foul play is suspected.
For Wednesday's vigil, a small memorial was set up by the flagpole with two photographs of Kami, one taken on that very spot.
Peter Schmidt, a Charlestown resident and a neighbor of Kami's, often saw her playing outside three doors from where he lives.
"It's horrible. It's something you don't know about in Cecil County," Schmidt said. "It doesn't happen much."
"It seems like a lot of people are here to support her and her family," Schmidt added. "You live in Charlestown, you know everybody. It's a small town, a good place to grow up."
People from surrounding communities also came to show their support for Kami's family and the community.
"I have three daughters myself, and the youngest one is 10," said Kris Musselman, of Rising Sun, who brought his daughters with him. "I couldn't imagine what they're going through."
Larry Robinson, the acting unit director at the Charlestown location of Boys and Girls Clubs of Cecil County, said Kami was a "wonderful girl who always like singing."
"She always helped out when I needed her to help out with the kids," Robinson said.
"It's a good community," Robinson added regarding Charlestown. "Everybody came out to support her on short notice. It shows everybody cares about the kids in this community."
Remembering the light
Pastor Scott Stevens, Mission Outreach Director at Shoes 2 Share in Newark, De., read the opening prayer, asking everyone to remember the light Kami brought to those she met.
"Lord, we know that you are loving and a just God. We know that you comfort us in a difficult time," Stevens said as those present bowed their heads. "We know that this is an unfair world and an unjust world and the things that are so precious and the things that are so vibrant and the things that are so innocent are usually the things that are taken for granted."
Doree Hepner sang "Amazing Grace" and "This Little Light of Mine," asking every child to hold their candle high in the air as she sang the latter.
Rick Dean, Kami's stepfather, struggled to find words to show his appreciation for the community.
"Thank you for being here tonight, every one of you," Dean said. "Thank you for the support. I really do appreciate that for my family and everything."
Members of the audience were invited to speak and share their memories about Kami. At times, audience members were brought to tears and sobs.
Bobbi Eggers, the mother of a girl who knew Kami, read a poem she had written from Kami's point of view.
"I am with you with every step that you take, sending reminders I love you all for your sake," Eggers read. "I grew in your hearts but then slipped away, but instead, now forever, in your heart I will always stay."
"My sister was a big friend of Kami's. It's always 'Kami, Kami, Kami,' " said David Poole, a student at Charlestown Elementary School, to chuckles from the audience. "She was such a great person; she had such a great personality; she always had a smile on her face."
'Really a fun girl'
Pastor Stevens read a letter that his daughter, a classmate of Kami's, wrote as an exercise that guidance counselors at Charlestown Elementary recommended to help children cope.
"Kami was really a fun girl. I know I only knew her for two years, but those two years were really fun," Stevens read. "I miss you a lot Kami. I just wish you could come back. Everyone misses you."
Pastor Dennis Gilbert, from Charlestown Baptist Church, where Kami attended, spoke about how innocence interrupted by evil was nothing new in history, noting that it went back to Adam and Eve.
"As I've listened to people talk about Kami and some of the things I've read, I can see that Kami's life is one that exuded joy," Gilbert said. "I think she was happy with life. She was happy with living. But even in the midst of happiness, innocence sometimes collides with tragedy."
"As a community we'll never be over this tragedy. But we have to go through it. And we go through it day by day, minute by minute, issue by issue," Gilbert added. "But we don't have to go through this tragedy alone. We don't have to go through this tragedy feeling hopeless and helpless, because the Lord tells us that he can be our strength, he can be our help."
She loved school
Kim Edler, Kami's teacher at Charlestown Elementary, spoke about how much Kami loved school, noting that she had perfect attendance this year and honor roll every marking period, and loved helping and being with her fellow students.
"I tell all my kids on the very first day of school 'I will learn more from you than I ever will teach you in 180 days,' " Edler said. "And I feel like that is the testament today; that I have learned more from Kami than I probably ever taught her."
Edler told a story about how Kami won a class prize to eat lunch with the teacher with some of her friends. They were allowed to request music, and Kami chose the Adele song "Rolling In The Deep" and wanted to sing it, but only if everyone else sang it with her.
"We sat in my classroom and belted it out like we were at the Grammys, and she loved that," Edler said to laughs from the crowd. "She will always have a special place in my heart."
Rose Clark, Kami's principal at Charlestown Elementary, also spoke.
"Your dear Kami is just a treasure. Hold her close to your heart," Clark said.
"I'm reaching out to each of you this evening," Clark added. "I know the Charlestown community, I know the staff at Charlestown, and all of you take care of the children. But I'm asking you to just watch over them a little more closely tonight."
Mary Jo Jablonski, executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cecil County, thanked the event organizers, club staff, the town of Charlestown and everyone for coming.
"The community just opened their arms," Jablonski said. "Anything we need help [with], that we can do, they're all here. It's quite humbling, the reaction of our community."
Brittany Dotson, a unit director at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cecil County, concluded the vigil by reading a poem.
"There is a special angel in heaven that is a part of me. It is not where I wanted her, but where God wanted her to be. She was here for just a moment, like a nighttime shooting star," Dotson read through tears. "And though she is in heaven, she isn't very far. She touched the heart of many, like only an angel can do."
"So I send this special message that heaven up above, please take care of our angel and send her all of our love."