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Thousands Turn Out for Candlelight Vigil in Chardon

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Thousands of students, parents and community members lit candles and shed tears at a memorial Tuesday night to honor the victims of the shooting at Chardon High School. Ideastream's Michelle Kanu reports.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 12:43 am

The massive crowd overwhelmed the parking lot, lawn and sidewalks of St Mary's Parish, a church just blocks away from where five students were shot Monday morning. The crowd was silent through most of the vigil as speakers ranging from Chardon Schools Superintendent Joe Bergant to Governor John Kasich encouraged the community to keep the families of the victims in their prayers.

Jack Sterling was also there. He's a teen from Akron who drove out just for the memorial.

Sterling: "They say a picture's worth a thousand words, but this is just so much more. It speaks such volumes to me. I took a picture and I keep staring at it-it's just magnificent. People have come together, people have put their egos aside, put their differences aside, they came together for such a tragic event that happened to this city and it's a beautiful sight."

Many students say they're still in shock.

Kelsey Crawley is a senior at Chardon. She didn't see the shooting, but she heard the screams in the cafeteria.

Kelsey Crawley: "I think for a lot of the students, it hasn't really hit most of us yet, but it will. It eventually will. But it's unreal, it really is."

Crawley is selling t-shirts in Chardon's signature colors of red and black to fundraise for the victims' families. She says it gives her and her classmates a way to channel their emotions.

Crawley: "We wanted to do something that really mattered, at least something that made a difference for the victim's families, and just help them out. So we just came together and-let's make t-shirts, let's make car decals, let's do something, because they need help. We all need help."

Senior Bradley Lawrence knew Daniel Parmertor, the first victim to die from his gunshot wounds. Lawrence says he's glad the schools superintendent is allowing students to ease back on to campus.

Lawrence: "I love the plan that Mr. Bergant put in place. We can return on Thursday, there's no classes, you can walk through the hallways, see all your friends and that will make it a lot better to come back on Friday. And I just want to see everybody, and hopefully everyone's there."

Some parents are questioning what further security measures the school can put in place to ensure another incident like this doesn't happen again.

Howard Karikas says his 9th grade son was in one of the classrooms where one of the shooting victims was brought in. Karikas says he still has questions how the shooter-T.J. Lane-slipped through the safety net of staff and social services at the alternative high school he attended.

Howard: "It's easy to point fingers, I just question how somebody that was identified as a troubled student that had additional care and a lot of resources still managed to commit this crime."

Many parents say they are focused on helping their kids return to school.

Kim Koberna's daughter is a freshman at Chardon who was five feet away from the shooting. Koberna says her daughter is feeling hesitant about going back to school on Friday, but the outpouring of messages she's received on Facebook are helping to soothe her fears.

Koberna: "It's been so helpful to have everybody coming together as a community. I think that's helped the kids a lot."

When the vigil ended several students carried their candles to Chardon's town Square where a memorial of roses, letters, and red ribbons is growing.

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