NORTH OGDEN — Hundreds of neighbors and strangers gathered in front of the home of a fallen Utah soldier and mayor Wednesday night, breaking out in spontaneous hymns that filled the quiet, cold air.
American flags lined the sidewalk in front of the home and candlelight illuminated the darkness.
"Everybody in this community just loved Brent. We love Jennie, we love their family. We're going to miss him," Jeri Gale, a neighbor, told the Deseret News tearfully during the vigil for North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor, a major in the National Guard who was killed in Afghanistan.
Taylor, 39, took an unprecedented one-year leave of absence from his post as mayor for his deployment in January. He was killed in an apparent insider attack in Kabul on Saturday.
He leaves behind his wife, Jennie, and seven children ranging in age from 13 years to 11 months.
During the vigil, Taylor's relatives huddled together on the driveway, facing the crowd of mourners. As the neighbors sang, Taylor's children were hugged by family members.
The feeling of love for the family was palpable among the mourners, both strangers and friends, bundled against the cold.
Jennie Taylor, wife of the fallen soldier, spoke briefly, thanking community members for their support over the past few days.
She said the family has felt "overwhelmed with love."
"We love you, Jennie," an echo of voices in the crowd said following her comments.
Gale told the Deseret News the community plans to "rally around and help her with those kids."
"She's staying put, so we'll be right here to help her with the kids. That's what he would do for us, if the tables were turned, he would be there to help with our kids. It's the least we could do," Gale said.
She said the community is a close one thanks to their mayor.
"We were very divided with the politics of the community until he was selected. And he just brought everybody together. He had a vision for the community. And he wanted us to remember to love each other and to work together to better the community, and that's what we've been doing for the last five years," Gale recalled.
Frank Hare knew Taylor for more than 10 years, working with him on the city's economic development committee and as members of the same congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"There's a hole in my heart," he said, pausing to hold back tears. "Something's missing. So right now, it's going to take time. Will that hole ever fill? No, but it may close off a little bit, or scab over if you will. … He was a great person, a great mayor. Most of all he was a great father, and he did what he knew was right, not what he thought was right."
Hare said the community has been deeply affected by the loss.
"The community is hollow right now. And, as you can see, the people who are out here right now, we're all hurting. A lot, some more than others, some are closer to Brent than others, but we're all feeling hollow," he said.1 comment on this story
"We've cried a lot of tears," said Pleasant View City Councilwoman Sara Urry, who got to know Taylor while he served on the North Ogden City Council. She called him a "good, good, good man" and praised his wife's strength.
"I can't even imagine. I have children of my own, but from one day to the next, all the sudden now everything is changed in her life forever. And I can't even imagine. But she is an amazing, strong individual. She truly is," Urry said.
As the vigil ended, community members sang the Latter-day Saint children's song "Families Can be Together Forever" while the family trickled back into the home.