Reynolds brings together families, school officials and faith leaders following shooting

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Community members attending the candlelight vigil at Reynolds High School Tuesday night hold their candles up in remembrance of the two students who died violently within the gym nearby.

More than 2,000 people filled the practice field of Reynolds High School Tuesday night, pinning green ribbons to their jackets and illuminating the dark June sky with hundreds of candles.

Soccer teammates released dozens of gold, green and white balloons with the number 29 in memory of Emilio Hoffman, as Hoffman’s family embraced each other, his mother Jennifer clutching a handful of gold balloons.

The 14-year-old freshman was killed June 10 in the gymnasium building, just yards away from where the vigil took place. Gunman Jared Padgett, a 15-year-old freshman, died the same morning from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.

Just a week after the shooting that has left East County communities reeling, the Reynolds School District sent a message of hope and healing with its candlelight vigil.

Crowds gathered to mourn, reflect and pay tribute. A 2009 Reynolds graduate, Chris Benjamin, led off the evening, singing “Amazing Grace.” Alumni performers, faith leaders and community officials took the stage to offer a poem, songs, prayers and reflections.

“Although we are stricken with grief that two young lives with lots of promise were lost, this is a school and a community that will triumph over adversity,” Superintendent Linda Florence said.

Florence thanked the community for showing its strength and pride, expressing gratefulness for its outpouring of love, support and compassion.

“These gracious responses give us hope,” she said. “Hope gives us strength. Tonight we hope for healing. Healing that unifies and strengthens our community.”

Florence closed her remarks quoting the words of Robert Fulghum: “I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Karri Miller, left, and her daughter Emiley Bradley hold candles at the candlelight vigil held Tuesday night at Reynolds High School. The community came to show their grief for the loss both students, the victim, Emilio Hoffman and the shooter, Jared Padgett.

Troutdale Mayor Doug Daoust said he refused to let the shooting define the city of Troutdale, while Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton, who filled in for Troutdale Police Chief Scott Anderson, commended students, faculty and parents for their strength of character amid a heartbreaking day.

Tabitha Card, a 2014 Reynolds High graduate, sang “God Be With You Again.” Rosie Reyes, also a 2014 Reynolds graduate, who studied at the Center for Advanced Learning and was a two-time Poetry Out Loud champion, shared Henry Scott-Holland’s poem “Death is Nothing at All.”

In a poignant speech, school board member Joe Teeny shared how his daughter had been in the gym the morning of the shooting — how it had been a trying week for him as a Raider parent.

“I shudder at the thought of what could have happened,” he said. “Let’s just say a few heroes got in the way of those plans.

“It was a week some might rather forget,” Teeny said. “But to do that, one would have to forget Emilio, and that just can’t happen. So instead of forgetting, let us remember and take pride in all the good things that happened this week.”

Teeny told the audience, in the words of author Brigitte Nicole, to never apologize for being sensitive or emotional. “Let this be a sign that you’ve got a big heart and aren’t afraid to let others see it,” he said, quoting Nicole. “Showing your emotions is a sign of strength.”

Speakers encouraged students and families to seek counseling and support if they needed it, challenging audience members to speak up if they noticed something awry with a child or classmate and to help them seek the proper resources.

Teeny invited community members to join him as a volunteer for next year’s Challenge Day at Reynolds, a daylong interactive workshop focused on compassion and connection, with games, activities and discussions. He said the school would need hundreds of volunteers.

“It is a time to rise,” Teeny said. “It is time to show the world that we are stronger as a result of this tragedy. Our children need us to guide them toward healing and to see their own strength.”

After faith leaders offered prayers and scripture readings, Principal Wade Bakley initiated the candle lighting.

A field of light drowned out the dark, somber week, moving the community forward.

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