PATTERSON, LA (WAFB) - Flames flickered and were passed from one candle to another Monday night as hundreds gathered behind the Patterson Junior High School to remember four victims from a deadly car accident.
On Saturday police responded to an accident involving an SUV and a school bus on Highway 90 in St. Mary Parish that claimed the lives of 36-year-old Ladonna Cheatham of Patterson and her children, 6-year-old Destiny Cheatham and 16-year-old Marcus Cheatham.
14-year-old Dwayne Escort of Patterson was also killed. Those lives were remembered and honored by many, each with their own reason for standing together.
"I'm going to stay strong. I'm going to keep my head up high. I know and I want y'all to do the same," said one friend.
"To be walking with her big sister, walking down the halls smiling," recalled a teacher.
A few family members also spoke, thanking those in attendance for their support and expressing how much they miss their family.
"So grateful for all of y'all that came out and support us, text message and Facebook. We love all y'all and thank you so much," said Edward Campbell, the uncle of the children killed.
Tammy Craddock, who taught Destiny in kindergarten, says she felt compelled to attend the vigil to share her love for her student.
"She touched so many lives in her young life, not just mine but other people too," said Craddock. "I wanted to come out and support the family and the love I had for her."
Patterson Mayor Rodney Grogan says the love for the victims goes well beyond immediate family members or friends, instead bringing an entire city together.
"When we talk about connection its education, municipalities, we're talking about family bonds, blood-lines. We can't avoid it," said Grogan.
The Cheatham-Escort Benefit Account has been set up at Whitney Bank for those wishing to help the family. Louisiana State Police says it continues to investigate the accident.