WARREN - Friends and family of six teenagers killed in a single-vehicle accident on Pine Avenue a year ago gathered on Courthouse Square Monday evening to celebrate the teens' lives and to thank area first responders for their help.
More than 100 people gathered outside the downtown gazebo to share prayers, good memories and gratitude on the one-year anniversary of the accident.
"We want to thank the first responders who were there to help in the moments after the accident," Tosca Owens, aunt of victim Daylan Ray, said. "Under unimaginable circumstances and extreme pressure, you not only performed your duties without hesitation, you also showed great care to the ones we lost, and you were a source of strength to those of us who were left behind."
The response from the entire Warren community was beyond anyone could expect, she said.
"This is an awesome community," she said. "I know that my sister did not want for nothing last year."
Lisa Williamson, whose 14-year-old son, Brandon A. Murray, was one of the teens who died, said this has been a difficult year for her and her family, but added that she appreciates the love and support she received not only from family, friends and members of her church, but also members of the community.
Lisa Williamson, mother of fatal accident victim Brandon A. Murray, sang her son’s favorite song, “Home,” during a vigil held in the gazebo in Warren’s Courthouse Square. Photo by Raymond L. Smith
"I've had people come up to me to express their condolences," Williamson said. "People have been very generous and kind."
Williamson said her heart goes out to the other families who lost their children.
"I continue to pray, but not only for them, but also for those who were at the scene and survived," Williamson said. "I can't imagine what they went through and what they still may be going through."
Brian K. Henry, 18, and Asher C. Lewis, 15, were injured but survived the accident. Killed were Ray, 15; Murray, 17; Alexis Cayson, 19; Andrique Bennett, 14; Kirklan M. Behner, 15; and Ramone M. White, 15.
The teens were in a 1998 Honda Passport that veered off the left side of Pine S.E. near Burton about 7 a.m. March 10, 2013, and flipped over a guardrail. The vehicle became submerged on its roof in a swamp. The two occupants who were able to escape from the vehicle ran to a nearby residence to call 911.
Williamson said the loss of her firstborn son still stings.
"I just miss him," she said. "I miss the way he used to lay his head on my shoulders. He used to talk nonstop. I miss the sound of his voice."
Williamson described having to go to family counseling as a result of her son's death.
"I came to tonight's vigil because it is the one-year anniversary of the accident," she said. "I don't go to a lot of vigils and programs because I believe it is time for us to move on. We must allow these young people to move away from the pain."
She sang "Home" during the ceremony.
Jamie Rolland, who went to school with Ray since the fourth grade, described a piece of her being missing since his death.
"He was my best friend," Rolland said.
Rolland wore a hoodie with Ray's picture on her back.
Kira Johnson, 29, Ray's sister, said the last year has been difficult for the family.
"It is hard not seeing him when I go to my mother's house," Johnson said. "We are still grieving."
Mayor Doug Franklin told the crowd that the tragedy showed the world the strength of the people of Warren and how the city has and will continue to come together when there is a need.
Franklin told the families of the accident victims that the city and the school district are going to plant a memorial tree in the spring in honor of their loved ones.