Mattawan community remembers shooting victims at evening vigil

Posted at 11:20 PM, Feb 23, 2016

MATTAWAN, Mich. -- Hundreds of people gathered at sunset at Mattawan High School Tuesday night to remember Tyler Smith and his father Rich, who were both gunned down at a car dealership in Saturday night's shooting spree. At one point, dozens of lit lanterns were sent into the evening sky.

"I hope we can realize that life is so short and that we really need to take advantage of the time that we have with the people we love," said Kat Perkins, "and I hope people can realize that more so coming out tonight than they did going in."

The setting for the vigil was particularly fitting for the late father and son, as Tyler loved soccer and Rich loved cheering on his son, said Jackson Smith, who played soccer with Tyler. He said both spent countless hours at the soccer field. "It was just amazing. They were so close. Tyler listened to everything he said, and his dad was so proud of everything he did."

Mattawan High school students collectively say it’s been hard to stay positive after the tragedy.

"Everything is just quiet," said student Rachel Close. "[There are] roses on his desk and people leaving flowers for him and a big 'Tyler Strong' sign hanging up in the lobby."

Close, like so many others, are trying to show the Smith family the light in this dark time. Tuesday's vigil did that symbolically as dozens of lanterns sailed into the sky.

"It didn’t set in. I didn’t believe it. It couldn’t have been Tyler," said Perkins.

Perkins  set up a GoFundMe account for the Smiths. "It just got put on my heart like I need to take care of his mom right now. I need to make sure that money is the last thing she needs to worry about or has time to worry about right now."

The page has raised over $20,000 in less than 48 hours.

Tyler’s mother Laurie and his sister, Emily, were at the gathering and spoke about their favorite memories. She said Tyler gave the best hugs, and she would give anything for one more. She also said if this had to happen, she is glad her son and husband were together doing what they loved and that she is still here to take care of her daughter.