Published DateLACONIA — Leah Stivali and Ciara LaGrange have returned to the Messer Street bridge every day since Friday, when they rushed back up Messer Street that afternoon after having been told by a person in a passing car that two of their fellow students at Laconia Middle School had been hit by a vehicle.
''We ran back as fast as we could,'' said LaGrange, who said that both she and Stivali were shocked to find out hear that two of the school's most popular students, Lilyanna Johnson, 14, and Alyssa Miner, also 14, had been injured.
Both teens were airlifted by helicopter to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, where Johnson died Friday and Miner remains hospitalized but in improved condition.
''We were the first ones to bring candles here Friday night,'' said Stivali, who said that both she and LaGrange saw an impromptu gathering of students come together to share their grief and put up signs and flowers to honor their classmates.
''Lily always had a smile and put on her best face for whoever she was talking with,'' said LaGrange.
"She had a bubbly personality and everyone loved her,'' said Stivali, whose pictures of Johnson are among those shown in a You Tube video tribute to her.
Both girls attended the Saturday night candlelight vigil held at the site for the accident victims as well as taking part in counseling session held at the Middle School Saturday and were back again Monday to remember their friends and share their grief and remembrances with whoever stopped by.
Another visitor to the site was Ashley Burgos, 14, who said that she remembers both girls as being sweet and loving. ''Lily always said hello to me and we were really close from our days together at Woodland Heights Elementary School,'' said Burgos. ''It's a really bad feeling to lose her. We just can't believe that she's gone yet.''
The memorial site, filled with flowers, hand-written tributes, candles, statues and stuffed animals, has been visited by hundreds if not thousands of city residents, young and old, who left messages like that penned by Rylee Littlefield, a close friend of Johnson's, which read in part ''you are the most loving, caring, beautiful, amazing person I've ever met in my life. Please watch over Alyssa, Keegan, me and your whole family''
Other signs referred to one of Lily's favorite sayings: ''It's always sunnier above the clouds.''
Bob Champlin, superintendent of schools, said that the School District has been dong everything it can to help students deal with their grief, ranging from Saturday's counseling session to having the Middle School open Monday and today so that students can stop by and speak with counselors.
''We had 40 people show up Monday morning,'' said Champlin, who said that a team of 15 school administrators, nurses and counselors are working out the details of an assembly at the Middle School next Monday morning when students return to classes from Spring vacation,
He said that Laconia Police Chief Chris Adams spoke at Saturday's counseling session and cautioned parents and students not to jump to conclusions about the accident, which is still under investigation.
The driver of the vehicle involved in the accident, Amy LaFond, 51, has a son who is a seventh grader at the school.
School Board member Stacie Sirois, who has been tracking community events on behalf of the accident victims' families, said that there will be an open gym at East Athletic Cheer from 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday night with donations accepted at door.
On Thursday night from 4 p.m. to close Fratello's will hold a 50-50 dinner with half of the meal proceeds going to the families.
The VFW will hold a spaghetti dinner/dance from 6-10 p.m. Price is $10 per person and there will be raffles, an auction and a 50/50 drawing.
Applebee's in Tilton will hold pancake breakfast events from 7-10 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday. Cost is $10 and all money goes to the families.
Sirois said two accounts have been established at Franklin Savings Bank, and donors can specify which account they to donate to, either the Bethany & Lilyanna Johnson Memorial Fund or the Lilyanna & Alyssa Memorial Fund, which was set up by Sunday Gulbicki Dearborn, owner of Jump 'N Joy, which will hold a fundraiser next week.
SunDay's Salon & Spa, where Johnson's mother worked for nine years, and Jump N Joy LLC are drop off locations for donations.
Leah Stivali and Ciara LaGarde, close friends of Laconia Middle School student Lilyanna Johnson, who died after being hit by a Jeep last Friday, and Alyssa Miner, who was still hospitalized with injuries, hug each other at a memorial site near the Messer Street bridge, which is filled with flowers, stuffed animals and hand-made tributes from fellow students. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)
Hundreds of mourners have turned out to leave flowers, stuffed animals and hand-made tributes at the Messer Street bridge where Laconia Middle School student Lilyanna Johnson died after being hit by a Jeep last Friday. Alyssa Miner, who was also struck by the vehicle, is still hospitalized with injuries. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)