RICHBURG -- Two sets of tiny hands penned messages to Hannah Quinton and Nicholas Cherry.
There were four notes, two on pink paper and two on blue, bearing words such as "Dear Nicholas, I miss you," and "Dear Hannah, I love you," in script shaped by Nicholas' 6-year-old sister, Taylor, and Hannah's 8-year-old brother, Timmy.
The children stood among about 50 people at the Lewisville Elementary School playground Wednesday afternoon, exactly one year after two students, 9-year-old Hannah and 7-year-old Nicholas, died in a wreck near the school.
"Do not let that go," Timmy's father, Carlton, told his son as he gave him a cluster of gold and blue balloons. "Hold on to it tight."
Never miss a local story.
Timmy's hands clasped the strings of floating bulbs. Taylor, wearing a T-shirt that bore Nicholas' picture, also took her strand.
"They're going to go to heaven, right?" Carlton asked the children about the balloons. "With these messages."
Then, as a preacher prayed, solemn heads bowed near two benches, one blue and one gold, that bore the names of Nicholas and Hannah, and the same ones the Quinton and Cherry families came here to dedicate to the children they lost -last year.
On that day, authorities said George Rogers of Chester ran a red light on S.C. 9. His logging truck slammed into a minivan at the Lewisville High School Road intersection just as school was getting out.
The crash killed Hannah and Nicholas.
Hannah's mother, Alice, was driving the van, and Timmy and Taylor were passengers. All three survived, as did Rogers, who was charged with two counts of reckless homicide. His trial date has not been set.
Timmy, then 7, had the most serious injuries of the survivors, breaking his legs, arms and jaw. The impact of the crash was so hard it threw him out of the vehicle, even though he was wearing a seat belt. Some people at the scene didn't think he would live.
But he did.
On Saturday, Timmy is prepared to play catcher in his first coach -pitch baseball game of the season. Taylor also plans to test her arm when she plays her first T-ball game that day.
On Wednesday, both children played with friends and family. Meanwhile, their fathers tried to absorb the moments, witnessing all who showed up to join them in remembering.
"I'm overwhelmed," Carlton said as he surveyed the crowd.
After the balloon release, the procession made the short drive to the hill that overlooks the intersection where the crash happened.
This is the same spot where the families put up a sign that says, "Thank you for your love, support & prayers." It's covered in flowers and teddy bears and surrounded by crosses.
A yellow Richburg firetruck also was parked on the hill. Carlton stood in front of that vehicle as he spoke to the crowd, saying what both families have said for months.
He thanked the community for its support and prayers. He thanked the emergency workers who were there that day, the Carolinas Medical Center Trauma Unit and the Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte.
"Most of all," he said, "we thank God for continuing to be the guiding light in each and every one of us."
When Carlton was finished, two poems were read and the firetruck's bells tolled -- three times for each child.
A few minutes later, the ceremony was over, and people began walking to their cars. But not before helping two families get through a difficult afternoon.
"The people," Wayne Cherry said afterward, "showed us a lot of support and love ... as usual."
ON THE WEB