One by one, they added to the growing memorial.
A little girl placed a bouquet. A family brought balloons. Others came with candles, stuffed animals and handmade cards.
About 50 people gathered Sunday night at Carson Elementary School in Puyallup for a vigil to remember Charlie and Braden Powell. Charlie was in first grade at the school.
They told stories about the boys, shed tears and hugged. A pastor led the group in a prayer and the hymn “Amazing Grace.”
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“In difficult times it helps to come together,” said the pastor, Jesse Lowery of Puyallup Foursquare Church.
Kristi Murray brought her children. Her daughter Brooklyn, 6, was in Charlie’s class.
Brooklyn was sad and didn’t feel like talking about her friend. But her mom described Charlie as a sweet boy who liked school. Murray volunteers in the classroom and recently helped the first-graders make valentines. The red paint stained Charlie’s hands, and he asked to use a different kind next time, she said.
“It was really cute. He was so concerned,” she said, pausing to wipe tears from her eyes.
In Kearns, Utah, about 50 people also gathered for a vigil for the boys. “Whenever a child dies a violent death and an early death, every child has a right to have somebody come out and remember them for who they were and who they should have been allowed to be,” said Cheyenne Miller, who attended the vigil.
In Puyallup, Jess Liebentritt stood near the flickering candles. She grew up with the boys’ mother, Susan Cox Powell, and was in touch with her sister, Denise Cox.
Liebentritt said she’d bought Christmas gifts for the boys but hadn’t gotten them to Denise.
“They’re still sitting on my washer,” Liebentritt said.
She said her heart breaks for her friend’s family.
“They don’t know where their daughter is and now …” she said, her voice trailing off. “How much do they have to take?”
The Salt Lake Tribune contributed to this report.