Students, friends gather at church vigil for slain teenager

Instead of wearing their prom gowns and tuxedos and walking into a festive hall, students wore sweatshirts with the Jonathan Law insignia and walked into a downtown church to mourn a fellow student stabbed to death at the school today.

The Rev. Adam Eckhart told students who gathered at the First United Church of Christ Friday night that Maren Sanchez, the young woman killed, would want them to still enjoy their high school years and their prom and to know how precious life is.

The prom and post prom were supposed to take place tonight, but they were postponed. Friends and social media suggest that Maren was stabbed by a 16-year-old boy because she would not go to the prom with him.

The Rev. Eckhart recalled the shootings at Sandy Hook, when a prayer vigil was held in Milford to unite residents after a national tragedy.

“Tonight we gather knowing devastation and shock has come more directly to this community,” he said.

Maren “was beautiful inside and out,” one girl said during the vigil, which included psalm readings and hymns.

“She was the happiest, most generous person I’ve ever known,” another student said. “One of these days we are all going to see her again.”

The minister prayed for healing, for the students and the school, and the families. He also offered up a prayer for “troubled souls,” including the 16-year-old boy who stabbed Maren and now faces a murder charge.

As the church full of people sang Amazing Grace, students lined up to light a candle at the altar for Maren. An attendee stood near the door of the church, holding a box of tissues and handing them to those in line. As the sad restrains of the hymns filled the church, more sobs could be heard and students, parents and others hugged and comforted one another.

In a televised news conference earlier today, one of Maren’s relatives said, “Maren should be celebrating at her prom this evening. Instead we are mourning her death.”