At the vigil for Stormy Solis on Wednesday evening, everyone shook multicolored glow sticks toward the darkening night sky to remember how the 7-year-old girl was bright and full of life.
“Let’s wave to our little light,” Penny Francis, a friend of Stormy’s family, told a crowd of a couple hundred people at Fisher Basin Community Park in east Vancouver.
Stormy died Friday morning from a brain injury. She reportedly fell off the swings at Fisher’s Landing Elementary School two days earlier, on Oct. 1., but no one saw the incident during recess. When she came home from school, she complained about being dizzy and was later admitted to the hospital.
Doctors at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland took her off life support Friday. Afterwards, her tissue and organs were harvested, including her heart and lungs, benefiting 18 people, Francis said.
“That was a really big deal,” she said. “That’s the only thing that’s balanced out our grief.”
Stormy was an adventurous, kind child, who “packed a lot of life into her seven years.” She and her 12-year-old brother, Walker, were adopted in January after becoming foster children in 2012. Their family did not attend the vigil.
“It’s like they’re alive but in a daze, a daze of grief,” Francis said. She emphasized that what happened to Stormy was a tragic accident.
People crowded under the picnic shelter at the park, where a table displayed pictures of the girl, along with a self portrait and acrostic poem she made in her second grade classroom this year. On the picnic tables were paper cutouts of butterflies, hearts, teddy bears and flowers. People wrote messages and memories of Stormy and slipped them into boxes wrapped in pink-polka-dotted paper.
“I really miss you Stormy,” read one message.
Jon O’Keeffe met Stormy while volunteering in his son’s kindergarten class, where she was a student. “It’s amazing how someone so young can touch so many lives in so many ways,” he said.
Children sat in the grass at the park, holding glow sticks, while Stormy’s second grade teacher Cindy Bonnell read from the book “How to Heal a Broken Wing,” by Bob Graham. The story is set in a city full of busy people, where no one sees a bird hit a glass window and break its wing except for a boy named Will.
“A loose feather can’t be put back, but a broken wing can sometimes heal,” Bonnell recited as tears filled her eyes. “With rest and time and hope, a bird might fly again.”
At the end of the book, Will opens his hands and the bird flies away. Bonnell said that when Stormy first came to her classroom, she saw her as perhaps a bird with a broken wing. Now, that role might be reversed; everyone touched by the tragedy is healing a broken wing.
Bonnell said she had the children in her class color pictures of leaves and write memories of Stormy. All the pages were bound together into a book and displayed at the vigil.
“We were best friends who liked to be together,” said one message.
“I like Stormy. I am frowns,” said another.
As the vigil ended, the crowd of children and parents dispersed, spreading the light from the glow sticks around the park.