As pastor Rudy Tinoco noted Monday evening during a candlelight prayer service, in a town like Forest Grove, the death of any child sends out ripples of anguish.

But this week it felt like a tidal wave.

Throughout the early morning Monday, word spread quickly about 6-year-old Anna Dieter-Eckerdt and 11-year-old Abby Robinson, two beautiful sisters hit by a motorist while playing in a leaf pile outside their Old Town home Sunday evening. Anna had been pronounced dead at the scene. Abby was taken by LifeFlight to a Portland hospital, where she died late Monday night.

As the grim details emerged, it seemed everyone had a story about their connection to the familial threads, which are woven deep into the fabric of this town.

The family was active in Sonrise Church, which has a large congregation and active outreach program; and lived in Old Town, where family friendships form fast and often last a lifetime.

The girls’ mom, Susan Dieter-Robinson, works with special needs kids across the school district and has inspired staff, parents and students of all ages and abilities.

Anna, though only a first-grader, had a wide circle of friends in the tight-knit Dilley School community, and Abby was active in Forest Grove’s popular summer youth activity program. She also landed a role in the upcoming production of “Annie” at Theatre in the Grove, which held a gathering Tuesday night to remember her.

So it’s not surprising that hundreds of people showed up Monday evening for a candlelight service outside Sonrise Church, where Tinoco and others offered not only comfort but also a challenge.

As the Sonrise pastors noted, there will be anger. And that’s understandable. But, they advised, it is important not to let that anger consume us.

And, we would add, it is important not to let those from outside our community hijack this tragic incident for their personal (and often ill-informed) agendas. Online news sites have already been clogged with anonymous postings by people blaming everyone from city officials (for their leaf pickup program) to, unconscionably, the girls’ parents.

But most of the venom has been reserved for the driver, who as of press time Tuesday, had not yet been identified. Speculation ranged from a distracted teen or elderly motorist to drunks and undocumented residents.

Within the next day or two (and, perhaps, before this paper reaches you) we will learn who was behind the wheel when the girls were tragically hit as they played in a pile of leaves Sunday evening, and it will be tempting to use whatever facts emerge to make a larger point.

But we urge our readers to listen to the measured tone set so clearly at Monday evening’s vigil.

Susan Dieter-Robinson and Tom Robinson are coping with unimaginable sorrow. But those who gathered Monday were told they are finding comfort from the outpouring of concern expressed in the past three days, and they are committed to keeping their own hearts open as they learn who killed their children.

“They are walking a path of pain, but they are also walking a path of forgiveness,” pastor James Gleason said. “They have care and compassion for the one who did this.”

The rest of us can honor the spirit of Anna and Abby by doing the same.

Contract Publishing

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