YARMOUTH, N.S. – Tears flowed as candles flickered at a vigil in Yarmouth’s Frost Park on Monday evening.
The show of support was strong as the community provided a message, not only with its words, but also with its presence. The message: ‘We are here for you.’
People turned out by the hundreds for the Nov. 26 candlelight vigil as a show of support for the family of the young girl who died at Yarmouth’s Christmas parade of lights on Saturday night after slipping underneath a moving float.
At the vigil support was also extended to the first responders, to hospital staff, to the adults and children who witnessed the terrible incident, and to anyone impacted by this sad community tragedy.
Just days before the community had gathered in Frost Park to celebrate the start of the holiday season after the town’s official tree lighting. The mood then was celebratory.
The mood Monday was sombre and poignant. As music filled the air people hugged, cried and comforted one another.
Their thoughts were of MaCali Cormier, the four-year-old girl who lost her life Saturday on what was meant to be a fun family and community event. And thoughts were of her family, who were present at the vigil, as they deal with their grief and heartbreak from their devastating loss.
His voice breaking with emotion, Yarmouth MLA Zach Churchill addressed the gathering, and the family.
“Know that our hearts bleed with you,” he said. “I do hope that the sharing of this grief with so many here tonight, the expressions of compassion and love that people are engaged with here and across this province and across this country, can, at the very least give you some strength – the strength I know that you will need as you face the coming days and as you face a change of course in your life’s journey.”
Churchill also thanked the first responders who not only put themselves in danger but expose themselves to incredible traumatic events while working in their communities.
“It entails great self-sacrifice and it enacts a toll on you all,” he said.
Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood told MaCali’s family the community cares deeply about them.
“Just know that we love you, we care about you, and every single person here, and many that couldn't come, are here for everything, for meals, a shoulder and those hour-long phone calls that we have. I’m here on the other end of the phone or for whatever you need,” she said.
She had a message for the family and to others who are hurting.
“A lot of people will say to the family, to the first responders, to the people on the side of the road that were there that evening, to everybody that was affected, they will say ‘Stay strong,’ and I’m going to say, ‘Don’t bother.’ We don't have to be strong, what we have to do now to heal is be weak. We have to cry, we have to lean on each other, we have to just let it all out, we have to let the feelings surface, otherwise they just go to the bottom. And we have to be there for each other because not one of us can do this alone, especially this family, not one of us. And so don’t be afraid to feel what you’re feeling.”
Songs and prayers were shared during the evening. People were encouraged to hold hands as they prayed for the young girl, her family and the community.
If you had to sum up the night: it was sad, it was comforting, it was heartbreaking, it was beautiful.
People were encouraged to wear purple since it was MaCali’s favourite colour. And many did.
IN AWE OF TURNOUT
Kendra Mills, one of the organizers of the vigil along with Chellesey Lusk, said she was taken aback by just how many people did turn out.
“It was a great turnout. I was speechless, I really was,” she said. “Looking over everyone with the candles lit was so amazing. For a small community, last night showed we all can come together as one.”
She mentioned a new fundraiser for the family will be started up and will involve the sale of purple heart stickers, with the hashtag #calistrong on them. These vehicle stickers can be purchased from Mills, Lusk and Steve Berry.
The community continues to step up in multiple ways, Mille noted.
“I reached out to Canadian Tire this morning about them donating a purple Christmas tree for the family,” she added. “They did even better, they’re decorating the tree with a picture of Cali on it and will have a donation box for a week on display in the store at the end of week. All proceeds, the tree and decorations will be going to the family.”
Another group – one of many – that has also reached out is the JStrong Fund group, which have been selling #JStrong toques for $20 with all proceeds going to the little girl’s family. Toques are being sold this week at the Yarmouth high school office.
Meanwhile on Tuesday evening, a grief session exploring the topic of how children cope with death is being offered for the community at 6:30 p.m. at the Rodd Grand Hotel. The session is aimed at helping adults and parents know what to say to children, given that so many were witness to the tragedy that unfolded at the parent or have been impacted in other ways. The session is being facilitated by grief specialist Bertha Brannen.
Funeral services have been arranged for MaCali. There will be visitation with the family from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday evening with prayers at 8 p.m. at the Yarmouth Wesleyan Church on Haley Road in Yarmouth. The funeral service was initially scheduled to be held Thursday, Nov. 29, with Father Henry Smolenaars officiating. Due to a widespread power outage that impacted the region the funeral was rescheduled to 11 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 30. Memorial donations are being accepted at Huskilson's Funeral Homes to a trust fund established for MaCali’s brother and sister, Tessa and Matthew.
The little girl's obituary describes the pre-primary student as having a passion for camping, swimming, dancing and horse riding and said she loved to help other people.
BE THERE FOR ONE ANOTHER
Meanwhile, as he spoke at the vigil on Monday night, Yarmouth MLA Zach Churchill encouraged people to reflect on and appreciate the preciousness of life and how for any of us, nothing is every guaranteed.
“If we can treat our time here, treat each other, as the precious commodities that they are; treat each other with kindness, with respect, with love and compassion then I think that we can allow that light that was lost to us this weekend be rekindled in each and every one us,” he said. “And through our actions and our deeds we can allow the legacy of this beautiful young child, who only brought love and joy into this world, to live on in each and every one of us.”