I have a personal belief that (our Heavenly Father) is there giving extra hugs to these kids … and spending a little extra time with them to make sure they're taken care of. —Brian Joy
OGDEN — Randy Parker heard about the school shootings in Newton, Conn., Friday morning.
But the Ogden man had no idea it was his granddaughter's school.
"Then you get the call that says there has been a shooting at Emilie's school, and they haven't been able to account for her yet," Parker said.
Emilie Parker, 6, died from her injuries.
"She was very loving," her grandfather said Friday in Ogden. "She just loved taking care of people. If she saw people with their feelings hurt, it was, 'What can I do to help?' She was that kind of child."
Emilie's parents, Robbie and Alyssa Parker, grew up in Ogden before moving away so Robbie could take a job in the medical field.
"My son and his wife are tucking their children into bed, and there's an empty bed," Randy Parker said. "And it breaks my heart."
A Facebook page called the Emilie Parker Fund was set up Friday, eliciting heartfelt sorrow among strangers, friends, well-wishers reeling from the tragedy.
"I've been crying for you all day," posted Suzy Steed. "I'm so very sorry for your loss. I will continue to pray for you."
Wrote Angela Hoerst, "Sweet baby … robbed of her life too soon. You have all of my tears this day little one."
Friends say the tragedy is the second to hit the family in just a few short months. The girl's grandfather and Alyssa Parker's father, Douglas Cottle, of Ogden, died in October — 10 days after a bicycle crash in a race he participated in from Logan to Jackson, Wyo.
The Parker family was joined by 19 others who lost children at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday. The grieving extended to adults also gunned down, including the mother of the suspected gunman, a teacher at the school. The school's principal also was believed to be among the dead.
In Ogden, friends and family of the Parkers are trying to sort through their grief, make sense of the senseless, and it is simply not possible. Not now.
"It doesn't make any sense. I don't understand how people can decide to do such evil to such innocent children and people," said Brian Joy, an bishop for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who knows the Parker family. "So many families are grieving throughout the country right now. You never realize how far-reaching these actions can be."
Joy said such capacity for violence is difficult to comprehend, and it leaves no one immune in its wake.
"The evil just seems to go lower and lower. They find new ways of shocking us," he said. "My heart just breaks for everybody involved in these tragedies, especially when they start hurting the grandbabies and the children."
Joy was a Scoutmaster to young Emilie's father when he was just a young man who lived across the street. Joy said he saw Emilie just a month ago, when she attended her grandfather's funeral.
"She was such a beautiful and happy child," he said. "I have a personal belief that (our Heavenly Father) is there giving extra hugs to these kids … and spending a little extra time with them to make sure they're taken care of."
Dave Christiansen is an LDS Church stake president who also knows the family well. He had words of calm for those who are grieving.
"It's tragic," Christiansen said. "But as far as that tragedy reaches, our faith reaches further."
With the strength of faith, he reminded, there is light that will outshine, outlast the darkness of such tragedy.
"Little Emilie is in a good place. We need to remember that," he urged. "We all grieved at her grandfather, Doug Cottle's, passing with his bike incident. Doug's got a little granddaughter on his lap, and she's being taken care of."
Dozens of Utahns gathered at the state Capitol on Friday night to mourn those affected by the school shootings.
Meredith Krannich organized the vigil, saying she "wanted to be able to do something."15 comments on this story
"(I) knew I couldn't make schools safer over night, and I couldn't have a loud enough voice in the gun debate, but I thought if I could get people together to let the people in Connecticut know that there are people across country thinking about them, that's something I wanted to do," Krannich said.
"This gathering is a reminder to take the time to think about the people who lost family members and loved ones today and to value every second you have with yours," she said.