Westlake holds candlelight vigil for fallen seniors
Students killed in Friday accident, two others honored at gathering
Hundreds of friends, classmates, family members and community members filled the bleachers and lined the stairs at Westlake High School’s stadium Wednesday for a candlelight vigil for four seniors who lost their lives this school year, including two killed in a car acci- dent last Friday.
“I want to thank God and their parents for allowing them to be a part of our lives,” said Pearson Benson, presi- dent of the Class of 2017. “The memories and moments that we shared with these four young men were special to all of us. Caleb, Reuel, Colin and Desmond would be proud to see us supporting each other in these trying times.”
The event, organized by the school’s Student Government Association, featured performances by the school’s jazz ensemble and choir.
Desmond Cooke and
Colin Bipat were killed shortly after noon March 3 when their car struck a traffic light pole.
Another passenger, Ca- leb Marshall, who had al- ready completed his graduation requirements and was attending the College of Southern Maryland, was injured in the crash.
Marie Burgess, school counselor for the Class of 2017, said she had watched these young men grow from freshmen into seniors with bright futures after high school.
“It is the loss of these futures that makes this even more tragic,” Bur- gess said.
Burgess said she saw Bipat twice the morning of the day he died. “I said something to him, and he gave me a big, toothy grin, a nice smile, and that was the last time I saw him,” she said.
Burgess said Cooke was a bright young man who loved his mother and his family very much.
“Everything he did was to try to make her proud,” Burgess said. “Something about the love he had for his mother, his siblings, his family will stick with me forever.”
Rhonda Kelly spoke on behalf of the Cooke family, thanking the school community for its support.
“Continue to live your dreams, continue to do your activities, have fun, even in this tragedy and in your heartache,” Kelly said. “Remember the fun- ny stories, the good times, remember to laugh, and when you do those things, you’ll be remem- bering them and keeping their legacies alive, the way they were.”
Reuel Hicks was fatally shot Oct. 26, 2016, outside the St. Charles Towne Center movie theater, leaving behind a grief-stricken family and a girlfriend carrying his child, due in June. A suspect has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the killing.
Douglas Lamb, vice principal for the Class of 2017, said Hicks’ personality and humor made a huge impression on him.
“That young man was on track, and he had everything going for him. There’s not a day goes by that I walk through this building, that I keep expecting him to come around the corner,” Lamb said.
Caleb Horne died July 11 from a previously undiscovered heart condition — cardiomyopathy — according to his mother, Pam Horne.
Westlake Vice Principal Curry Werkheiser said Caleb Horne was a gifted musician who could “hear musical possibilities like a skilled chess player sees moves on a chess board.”
“He would share new song ideas with me, and I would introduce him to old-school musicians who paved our way, and he would get me hip to the newcomers in the art,” Werkheiser said.
Pam Horne, Caleb’s mother, said the Westlake Class of 2017 has a special place in her heart.
“I say to you, you will get through this,” Horne said. “And as a tribute and in the memory of Colin, Desmond, Reuel and Caleb, please contin- ue to dream and strive every day. Do it for them, do it for your loved ones, your family, your friends, but most of all, do it for yourselves. Don’t let these tragic — and they are tragic — losses stop you from achieving your goals.”
Caleb’s mom also offered words of encouragement to the other grieving families.
“As a mother who’s also going through the grieving process, I want to extend my condolences to the mothers and your families,” Pam Horne said. “I know, the Comforter will be with you. Lean on the Lord.”
Westlake Principal Michael Mieser offered his deepest condolences to the grieving families and friends.
“We must step back and be grateful that we had this time to spend with these four young men,” Meiser said. “Don’t ask why this has happened. We are not able to answer that question. Why is determined by a higher being. He has a plan of victory and not of loss.”
Pastor Nelson Bowen of iNgage Ministries gave the closing remarks. In a prayer, he asked, “God, I declare and decree, that not another student will have to be remembered in this way.”
Memorial services for Bipat will take place today, with visitation beginning at 9 a.m. until time of services at 11 a.m. at New Life Wesleyan Church, 9690 Shepherds Creek Place, La Plata, with interment immediately to follow in the church cemetery.
Memorial services for Cooke will take place March 14 from 9 a.m. until time of services at 11 a.m., also at New Life Wesleyan Church, with private interment.
Students, staff and community members hold candles in memory of four members of the Westlake High School Class of 2017 who died this year.
Pamela Horne, the mother of Caleb Horne, accompanied by members of her family, speaks to Westlake High School students, staff and community members during a vigil held Wednesday evening for the four members of the Class of 2017 who have died this school year.
Westlake High School students and community members hold candles as the school’s choir sings “See You Again” during a vigil held for four students from the Class of 2017 who died this school year. STAFF PHOTOS BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU
The Westlake High School Jazz Ensemble performs “Orange Colored Sky” during a vigil Wednesday to honor the memory of four seniors who have died this school year.