Silently, respectfully, one person after another stood before a poster board covered with photos of Aryana Youngquist and Charlie Campoverde. Some knelt down and prayed, their faces glowing in the candle light. A few gently placed white roses on the ground beneath the poster.
They embraced one another, consoled one another. And aside from the occasional audible sobs, the only sound was that of music playing from a small portable CD player — tunes that Aryana would have enjoyed.
A peace sign, made of candles, took shape on the hill at Ballantine Park. And one by one the crowd grew Monday night to well over 100 people — young and old.
Then Aryana's family arrived.
"Thank you so much," her father said, fighting to get the words out through tears. "This is beautiful."
They sat next to the poster and joined the community in mourning the loss of their 17-year-old daughter and Charlie, 20, her boyfriend. The two were killed Saturday morning in a car accident on Interstate 84 in Southington.
The loss has been devastating to their large group of friends. One mother at the vigil said her daughter was too upset to go to school Monday, and that she had been struggling to cope with it at home all weekend.
Getting together with her friends and others mourning, to honor two lives lost too soon, was just what her daughter needed.
"It's extremely important," the woman said. "They need this."
And the location was equally important, too.
Aryana and her friends used to go to the park when it was closed. They would lay in the grass, look up at the stars and ponder their futures, the woman said.
"And the strangest thing about that is we have a bigger field in our backyard," a family member said to laughter.