In remembrance of Sierra and Daniel: West Jordan school honors classmates with memorial
Many of the school's students sat on the grass in front of the tree during the ceremony. The names of Daniel and Sierra were written in ribbons tied to the chain-link fence, with a heart between them. Afterward, the children placed notes for Sierra they had written for her on the new bench and tied ribbons to the new tree.
In addition to the unveiling of the bench, a smaller, circular cement marker was unveiled in the ground next to it with a small plaque in the middle to honor Daniel Allen. The plaque had Daniel's name and the words, "In loving memory, Love Each Other."
Lani Allen, Daniel's mother who was at the ceremony, said for two years her son battled brain cancer. On what was expected to be the day that they were to go to the hospital for one last MRI exam to get an "all clear," doctors found that the cancer had returned and gave Daniel six weeks to live.
During his fight with cancer, Daniel would often ask his mother, "We love each other, don't we?" That was later shortened to just, "Love each other," Lani Allen said.
Daniel died just over a year ago, right before the start of the school year. After he died, Lani said she and her husband went to the school to tell the students themselves.
"I wanted to find a way I could tell the children Daniel had passed away, in a very loving manner," she said.
During Friday's ceremony, Lani Allen presented the school with a gift of her own, the book "Lifetimes." It was a book she read to Daniel's class after he died. It explains death on a level for children, she said.
"Each of us have a time and a season," Lani Allen said. "Every single living thing has a time when it dies."
The book will now be placed in the school's library.
Lani Allen said she was very moved by the gesture to include a plaque for her son and a place that the classmates of both Daniel and Sierra could go to remember their friends.
She also extended her condolences to the Newbold family.
"I don't think it's ever easy losing a child. But I think not having the opportunity to say goodbye would be difficult," she said. "I really feel for them. I hope that the healing process goes well, and that they're able to see there's beauty in humanity, that there's some beautiful people who do care."
Daniel's plaque was placed next to one dedicated several years ago for 10-year-old Linzie Williamson. In 2008, in a triple-murder/suicide that shocked the valley, Linzie, her mother, and her 1-year-old half-sister were shot to death by her mother's boyfriend, who then committed suicide.
Kathy Newbold still has children who attend West Jordan Elementary. She said she will see the bench and the tree every day as she walks her children to school.
Belden Thomas, a cousin of Newbold, said Sierra's death has been difficult on him as well, and he was thankful with Friday's events.
"I just want everybody to know that what happened here today, it was a blessing. Kinda calmed my heart, to give me some peace," he said.
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