ROANOKE CO., Va. - Friends and family said their goodbyes Wednesday night to the victims of the shooting on Bent Mountain earlier in June. They gathered on the mountain for the service and used happy memories to deal with sadness.
It's not a usual sight to see skateboarders outside a memorial service, but shooting victims Brandon Dekel and Cole Kennedy loved skating, and friends remember the pair as two pleasantly unusual best friends.
"We were just able to celebrate these kids lives, they meant a lot to us, (and share) how much we feel their loss," Bent Mountain Bistro chef Benjamin Ward said.
Ward and the bistro spearheaded much of the efforts to remember the victims. They gathered at the Bent Mountain Community Center on Wednesday night to say goodbye. Pulling themes from the Beatles song "All You Need is Love," they shared stories and watched slideshows of the two beloved friends.
"At the start of the video, there was another song, "Hey Jude," that talks about tough times and making it through," service officiant Greg Fleshman said. "So God's love helps us get through those things and I know Brandon and Cole had that in their life."
Brandon Dekel and Cole Kennedy were two of the three people shot dead a week earlier. The third victim, Miranda Trump, was celebrated Wednesday morning at her own funeral. While police arrested an 18-year-old for the crimes, little information has come out about the case and rumors are flying, making it difficult to process for the group.
"It's been a tough week for everybody, I think it's just been an emotional roller coaster, crying, angry. We all want answers," Ward said.
But without answers, these folks must continue to move forward. The death of their friends is a terrible thing, but positivity in numbers can make a difference.
"I think the main takeaway point is that we need to treat one another with love and respect," Fleshman said. "God enables us to do that through his love for us first."
So while skateboarders at a memorial service may not look usual on the surface, the more you look at it, the more it becomes clear: There's nothing unusual about finding comfort with those who mean the most under the summer skies.
"Brandon, Cole and Miranda are all people who showed tremendous love and outpoured themselves both when it was convenient, but many times in their life when it was not. And if we can emulate that in our life, we'll do well," Fleshman said.
Bent Mountain Bistro started an online fundraiser to help cover costs. Ward said he is incredibly thankful to the community for its support. Because of the generous donations, all funeral costs will be taken care of for the families.
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