These were just a few of the words adults in and around Enumclaw High School used Wednesday to describe a memorial assembly honoring the 26 victims of last month's devastating shooting at .
The number 26 figured prominently in the event, taking place 26 days after the Dec. 14 shooting. In a moving ceremony, 26 seniors spoke for the 26 whose lives were taken too soon.
The student body was encouraged to perform 26 random acts of kindness in their memory.
And through the power of music, the high school choir performed "Prayer for the Children." They were preceded by student Amanda Thompson, who performed The Calling's "Wherever You Will Go," both songs expressing sentiments and emotions sometimes too hard to put into words.
Where speech, ceremony and song couldn't fully express thoughts and emotions around the shooting, there was also the visual arts. Junior Chantell Gordon, whose family friend lives two houses away from the elementary school and became overwhelmed through assisting in the response, said she created her piece as a way to show her support. Her green and white piece composed of 26 'shards' or panels represent the shattering of families that the shooting caused, At the same time, select images and sayings that she and her mother had come up with, lay in each panel as a way to bring the pieces back together.
It also took her 26 days to complete -- one day for each panel.
While Sandy Hook was at the forefront of students' and staff members' minds, the assembly was just as much about cementing a resolve that began last year through Rachel's Challenge to make Enumclaw High School a place where all were welcome, where they'd feel comfortable being who they were and where they were loved.
Principal Jill Burnes told those assembled, "...remember that every day we are given is a gift, and each of us has the opportunity to make a difference. I personally believe this begins right here at home in our own high school."
Reading an excerpt of a letter by Beth Nimmo, the mother of Rachel Scott who was killed in the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, shortly after the Newtown shooting, Burnes calls out the reality that there are young people who continue to face feelings of alienation and anger and who don't feel their school is an accepting place. "This is something I truly hope no student at Enumclaw High School ever feels," she said, but in reality, she knows "this is too often the case for many of you."
She continued, "As principal of your high school, my biggest dream and goal is for every student and staff member at EHS to feel accepted and respected, that each of us comes to school feeling this is a wonderful place to learn and to grow and to feel safe to be ourselves and to learn withour fear."
Superintendent Mike Nelson encouraged students to be inclusive, to be "a little bit more fully present with each other in the conversations that we have with and for each other ... and that we openly share the love that we have with one another so we each know that on a regular basis."
Senior Perry Rockwood took the opportunity to thank the teachers and staff of the high school for their dedication to their students. He cautioned students not to take their lives for granted and to treat each other better.
To the seniors, he said, “I think what we should be known for is changing the school and changing the environment and making it a place where everybody can feel welcome. Not by only having Rachel’s Challenge and having it die off after that, but by keeping it constant. Because if we do it, you know they’ll follow..."
He continued, "People might not have the best home lives. We spend six hours here a day - why not make that six hours somewhere they can get away from their problems, and make it somewhere they feel welcome?"