Community gathers for candlelight vigil in honor of North Park shooting victims

- The San Bernardino community gathered together Tuesday night for a candlelight vigil in honor of the school shooting victims at North Park Elementary.

Finding comfort in prayer, Amanda Sloan thought of her 7-year-old son who she said witnessed the shooting of his teacher and classmate.

“He thinks he’s going to see his teacher and his friend when he comes back to school,” Sloan said. “He’s not understanding it.”

The mother said she didn’t bring her son to the candlelight vigil.

“I think this would have been just been too traumatic for him to be here,” she said.

It was important for her to come, joining hundreds of other parents, teachers and community members on the lawn at North Park Elementary School just a day after the classroom shooting.

Together, the crowd sang and prayed for the lives of teacher Karen Smith and her student, Jonathan Martinez. The two were killed when Smith’s estranged husband came to her classroom and open fired Monday morning.

“This was someone we knew,” Yadira Downing, Principal North Park Elementary School, said. “It was someone we knew. We had no inkling that there was anything wrong.”

Downing spoke publicly for the first time since it happened. She knew both victims well and remembered Jonathan as a happy child.

Jonathan’s friend Omaega Johnson rode the bus with him.

“He was funny. He made me happy,” she said. But talking about him was too just too much, and she broke down in tears.

“She tried to hide it, but it’s hard for her so we’re just here for her trying to help her cope,” Johnson’s sister, Mercedes, said.

A broken community trying to find healing before going back to school.

“We are literally heartbroken, and it’s going to be process,” Downing said.

The school is expected to reopen on Monday.

“Is Monday too soon?” Downing questioned. “I don’t know. We’ll have to try it on Monday.”

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