ROANOKE, Va. – A powerful message of living life and loving was in evidence when hundreds of people filled a Roanoke sanctuary Wednesday to remember Alexa Cannon.
Second Presbyterian Church was full of people connected in some way to Cannon and her family. Her pastor, Dr. George Anderson, says the family desires healing and peace during this tragic time.
"We will not dwell on how Alexa died except for this very important note. The Cannon family made it very clear to the pastor that they want Louisa Cutting and her family to be included in our prayers for they also need God's grace," said Anderson.
Sam Cannon shared his daughter's struggles and perseverance with her epilepsy diagnosis.
"She had a little bit of isolation, a little bit of depression, A little bit of struggle as to getting through day in and day out. When she went off to college it was very daunting for us to separate from that. But the girl was fearless. I don't know how she did it," said Sam Cannon.
He also wants people to remember how she lived and not how or why she died.
"She will bring to you her smile. The hugs and the laughs. That was for you. That was for all of us and to realize her struggles in the way she carried through every day when you were in front of her, you were what was important," said Cannon.
Her spirit can live on through others.
"Use Alexa's brief life as a guide to maybe how we can cultivate some change in our lives because whether you believe or not every one of us are all connected," said Cannon.
The Cannons say they're grateful for the ongoing support from the community.
Later that night, an additional crowd of hundreds gathered in the student recreation center at Radford University, where Alexa was a junior psychology major. A number of speakers shared testimonies to Alexa's character and joy, and the group sang a song and reflected on pictures of her in a slideshow.
After that, the group cracked blue glowsticks on and trekked across campus in the blistering cold for a gathering at the university fountain, where they left the glowsticks behind. Blue was Alexa's favorite color and her professors detailed how she struggled her freshman year, but was a picture perfect turnaround story.
"She walked into my classroom for the first time on the first day of school and she just bounced. She was so full of joy, she said hi, my name is Alexa but you can call me Lex, and she pulled out her little rabbit foot keychain and she said it's going to be the best semester ever," Dr. Stirling Barfield recalled.
We also heard for the first time from the Latino Student Alliance. Alexa was a member of the group, and her alleged killer, in addition to being her roommate and best friend, held a leadership position in the organization. Two representatives from the group offered their condolences and shared their pain with the group.
Friends said one of Alexa's favorite moments at Radford was when the men's basketball team won their conference championship last year and made it into the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. They said they will remember her for the incredible highs she brought to life and not the one lone low that ended her life.
"The joy that was just surrounding her, it beamed from her constantly, and no matter what she was facing there was always a light and it reminds me of this saying there are some who bring a light so great to the world that even after they've gone the light remains," Barfield said. "Alexa, you will forever be a light in our hearts."