More than 100 students, parents, and staff gathered across from Belton High School's Tiger Field on Wednesday night to celebrate the lives of two students who died days apart.
16-year-old sophomore Alexander "AJ" Howard was killed in a car crash Saturday. 18-year-old senior German "Andres" Martinez-Bazan II drowned at Belton Lake on Monday, just two days after Howard's death.
The vigil began with a statement from Howard's mother.
"I can’t understand why any of this has happened, but this is the best school ever. I went to school here, and I’m glad my son got to go to school here. Thank you, everybody, for what you’ve done for my son and for [Andreas]. It means the world to us," Howard's mother said.
A performance by several of Martinez-Bazan's friends followed her statement. Then, one by one, students -- many of whom were in tears -- spoke into a microphone and shared their favorite memories and thoughts about the two students, including those who didn't know them too well.
"He's such a good guy. AJ, if you're up there, you're always going to be my cadet sergeant. And you're always going to show me the way. And I love you," one student said.
"We've lost two kids. [Andreas] was always smiling in first period, and I didn't know him like that. I knew he was good. I knew he was kind," another student said.
Martinez-Bazan's father, who was too emotional to speak to the crowd at the beginning of the vigil, was overwhelmed with the community's support.
"This has been a lot for us. I don't know how we would have done it without ... the love from all of you today. Thank you very much," his father said.
At the end of the vigil, hundreds of balloons were released into the sky. Some of those balloons had personal messages for the two students written on them.
Many of the students who shared their thoughts Wednesday night hoped the vigil would help the parents of the two students celebrate their lives instead of mourning them.
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