Saturday, June 25, 2022
June 25, 2022

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11-year-old girl remembered at candlelight vigil

Friends, family, strangers mourn Elizabeth Smith, who was fatally struck by a minivan last week

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People gather to remember Elizabeth Smith, 11, during a candlelight vigil Sunday night at Daybreak Middle School in Battle Ground. She was killed after being struck by a minivan last week while waiting for her school bus.
People gather to remember Elizabeth Smith, 11, during a candlelight vigil Sunday night at Daybreak Middle School in Battle Ground. She was killed after being struck by a minivan last week while waiting for her school bus. (Photos by Samuel Wilson for the Columbian) Photo Gallery

BATTLE GROUND — For the hundreds who gathered with candles aglow outside of Daybreak Primary/Middle School on Sunday night, there was no easy way to say goodbye to Elizabeth Smith.

The 11-year-old was killed Wednesday morning after being struck by a minivan that was traveling down Northeast 82nd Avenue in the Battle Ground area in what appears to be a horrific accident. Elizabeth and her younger sister, Cera, were waiting for the school bus near the intersection of Northeast 289th Street and 82nd Avenue when it happened.

Four days later, a somber crowd of friends, relatives, classmates and even strangers who were touched by Elizabeth’s story came out to share their favorite memories and say goodbye as the community continues to mourn. Dozens wore T-shirts with Elizabeth’s picture on the front and a poem titled “As I Sit in Heaven” on the back. And some wrote their own personal goodbyes to Elizabeth on blue balloons.

Several of her friends and relatives passed around a microphone, battling tears as they shared their favorite stories of Elizabeth’s kindness, playfulness and sense of humor.

“We keep asking the question why, but we will never find the reason that such a smart, beautiful child is taken from our lives,” said Phillip Hawthorne, Elizabeth’s uncle. “Instead, I would like to note just how happy she made us and how she touched all of our hearts.”

Hawthorne said he will always cherish the memories of watching Elizabeth play, learn and grow with his children over the years.

Eleven-year-old Alex Chekhun said she’ll remember Elizabeth as a girl with a beautiful smile who loved to make people laugh. Elizabeth cared more about how people felt than what they thought, Chekhun said.

“She had a warm heart,” Chekhun said. “She never bullied anyone. She never made any fun of anyone.”

Elizabeth’s aunt Melynda Chavez took the chance to read a poem written by a couple of Elizabeth’s good friends shortly after her death.

“It broke many hearts to lose you, but you did not go alone,” Chavez read. “For part of us went with you the day God called you home.”

Chavez took a moment to thank everyone for coming. Looking out into the crowd, Chavez was moved to see how many lives her niece touched.

“I never really grasped how much she was loved until right now,” Chavez said.

In the wake of Elizabeth’s death, more than 150 supporters have come together to raise money to cover her funeral costs through an online fundraiser on YouCaring.com. As of Sunday night, they had collected nearly $10,000.

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