by Hailey Nettler
I didn’t know Terry DiFalco, but I wish I did.
As I stood at the candlelight vigil nearly two weeks ago, I saw hundreds of broken hearts and not one dry eye to be found. My friends and I stood in a circle, surrounded by other students and families with loved ones, staring blankly at the burning candles we all held.
I heard cries of “No, no, no,” “She was too young,” “How did this happen?” and “Why?” And as tears streamed down my face, I heard a voice in my head asking the same questions.
It’s clear that what happened to Terry was a tragedy that absolutely no one in this town will ever forget. March 4, 2017, will be a date that lingers in our minds for the rest of our lives.
The vigil put life in perspective for a lot of us. Hundreds of us gathered as one community, mourning the loss of an amazing girl. Her theater community stood by the front theater doors of the high school, singing songs as we all watched and prayed.
My heart ached as I watched her friends, family and classmates mourn. I saw the pained expressions of people in shock and confusion.
The adjectives I heard people using to describe Terry were extraordinary words: amazing, intelligent, talented, bubbly, beautiful, special.
This sense of togetherness did not end once the candles burned out. The prayer service, wake and funeral allowed Westfield to come together in support of the people closest to Terry. Community members were also able to grieve themselves, no matter what their relation was to her.
At the prayer service, Terry’s theater friends sang and others read passages. At the wake the line was hours long, and hundreds of people stood waiting to pay their respects. And the funeral was full of family, friends and peers still trying to come to terms with what has happened. It was incredible to see so many people reaching out to comfort others in a time of need.
As the vigil ended and I walked to my car, a news reporter stopped my two friends and me. With the cameras behind her and a microphone in hand she said, “We are doing a tribute for Terry, would you girls like to say a few words?”
I stared at her blankly. I turned to my friend on my left, who then turned to our other friend on her left. We stared with no words for what felt like an eternity. Finally my friend said, “We didn’t know Terry personally. We came to support her and our community.”
I’m sure I passed Terry in the halls and saw her smiling face. But as a senior, I hadn’t had the chance to get to know her yet. I wish I could have said more to that reporter.
But I know she was special. I know she will be deeply missed. And I know she touched the lives of everyone who was lucky enough to know her.
I didn’t know Terry Difalco, but I wish I did.