Family, friends and strangers gathered in Randolph on Wednesday night, at what was supposed to be a vigil to pray for the safe return of missing 12-year-old Brooke Bennett. Instead, it turned into a memorial to remember the bubbly girl.
A haunting silence, broken only by whispers of condolence and prayers, filled the air around the Gazebo on Main Street as over 200 people came together to mourn Brooke.
Friends offered condolences to Bennett's family, who had barely had time to process the news of her death.
"I don't know what to say," said Brooke's father, James Bennett. "I know that Brooke knows that we love her...and we'll always love her."
"First of all I want to say, Brooke Marie, I love you so much," Brooke's mother, Cassandra Gagnon, said through tears. Brooke's 17-year-old sister, Savanna Andres, stood with her arm linked through her mother's.
"Brooke, I miss you already, and I know you can hear me," Savanna said. "I love you so much and I'm glad you're in safe hands now."
As the family struggles to make sense of the loss of their loved one, Brooke's closest friends are trying to do the same.
"It's like, I can't even feel anything right now," said Brooke's friend, Jacqulyn Lumbra. "Next year I'm going to start off, like, not being with her and it's going to feel really weird."
The community is left feeling a sense of betrayal that something so shocking could happen so close. "It's just, I don't know what to think. It's really overwhelming," said a young girl who attended the vigil.
"It's really difficult to process and try to explain to her what's going on," said parent, Kim Abbot, of her daughter. "She's doing good. I have a lot of questions. A lot of whys."
They know those whys may never be answered, but pray that closure will one day come.
Cassandra Gagnon issued a plea: "I just ask that justice be done to the person that took my baby away."
The outpouring of support from the community has been incredible. There are signs up all over Randolph, saying things like 'We Miss You Brooke' and 'We Love You.' Some residents are even decorating their mailboxes as a way to remember Brooke. That outpouring has not been lost on the family; they thanked the community for its support and asked that everyone stand with them now as they struggle to move forward.
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