Cassidy Charette brought light into the lives of her friends, family and classmates, and they paid tribute to that Tuesday, lighting dozens of candles in her memory.

Reading together from prayer cards at Mount Merici Academy, a crowd of more than 100 prayed for strength while grieving the loss of 17-year-old Charette, who died Saturday in a hayride crash.

“Hold on to us, even when we find it hard to hold on to you,” the attendees read and prayed together. “Be very near, even when we feel you to be very far away. Support us in the weeks and months and, yes, even the years ahead.”

More than 100 attendees gathered for a candlelight vigil in front of the Waterville Catholic school Tuesday night to remember Charette, a former Mount Merici student and Messalonskee High School junior, who was killed in the Mechanic Falls accident over the weekend that sent 22 other passengers to the hospital.

“She led by quiet example,” recalled Vicki Duguay, Mount Merici principal.

Duguay led the candle lighting ceremony, which she said symbolized passing on the light that Charette brought into their lives.

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Attendees at the vigil were invited to come up to a microphone and share memories of Charette, and they took turns recalling funny moments and sharing what they admired about her.

A former teacher of Charette’s, Erinn Michaud, said she had the “unique blessing” of having Charette as a student and said she was an example of a student who was shaped by the supporters in her life.

“Behind every great kid is amazing parents,” said Michaud.

Michaud recalled childhood antics of Charette’s, like sleeping bag surfing down the stairs. The vigil attenders laughed when Michaud told the story of a field trip where another girl dropped a water bottle into the toilet on the bus, which then broke down, prompting Charette to yell, “Sophie broke the bus!”

A fourth-grader, Zane, who was partnered in kindergarten with Charette in a Mount Merici buddy program, said he remembered her as a good friend and that he missed her.

“She taught to build and not to destroy,” he said.

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Earlier Tuesday, students, teachers and parents at Messalonskee High School held a moment of silence before the start of the varsity girls soccer game to mourn not only Charette’s death, but Nora Birch, who committed suicide Sept. 30.

Coach Penny Stansfield said Tuesday the moment of silence before the match with Bangor High School was to express grief over the deaths of both students. Tuesday’s game was the first for the Messalonskee players after the death of their teammate Charette.

“We just want to acknowledge that there was so much loss,” Stansfield said. “But we’re strong, and we’re going to get through this, and we’re certainly a family here.”

Members of the varsity boys soccer team delayed their trip to a game in Bangor to pay their respects at the observance. They were joined by football and soccer players from Messalonskee and Mt. Blue High School. Hundreds of community members turned out for the game.

Players and other students wore blue shirts with Charette’s number 11 before the start of the game. During the game, Charette’s teammates wore black armbands with the letter C. During the moment of silence, students linked arms.

As she prepared to send her team out to play, Stansfield admitted she did not know what to expect after the loss of a girl who was a big part of her team.

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“Cassidy was wonderful, and if you had Cassidy in your life, if you knew her, you were a happier person for it,” Stansfield said. “She had that spark.”

Members of the visiting Bangor girls soccer team each handed a rose to a Messalonskee player during the pregame observance in recognition of the personal loss their rivals felt.

The game was very much about dealing with team members’ grief.

“We’ve lost a family member, we have, she was a part of our family, and we decided we would go ahead with the game,” Stansfield said. “It doesn’t matter what the score is; this is not about the result. This is just us being able to be together for each other and honor Cassidy.”

Teammates and fellow students recalled Charette as an athlete, a student and a friend.

“She was top of her class,” said teammate MollyAn Killingbeck. “She was so smart, and she was always smiling in the halls. I always saw her, and she brightened up my day. She was just nice to everyone.”

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Of the six Messalonskee High School students injured on the hayride, Charette’s boyfriend, 16-year-old Connor Garland, a Messalonskee baseball player, is at Boston Children’s Hospital and listed in fair condition. A Facebook page created to support his family reported that he had surgery Monday and on Tuesday was able to see visitors.

“Our best wishes go out to Connor and his family, and we know it’s going to be a hard struggle, but our thoughts are with him,” Killingbeck said.

Principal Jon Moody said the school brought in outside mental health professionals and counselors from area schools to assist Messalonskee’s own counselors in providing support for students.

The library and guidance offices were opened up as “safe locations” for students. Teachers, administrators and support personnel were on hand to provide support in classrooms and usher those who wanted to talk to the appropriate personnel, he said.

“We believe in Messalonskee, and our community has certainly lived up to the moniker ‘Messalonskee Strong,’ these past few weeks,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our staff, our kids, our parents and our community.”

On the field, Stansfield said, Charette “worked very hard” and was “always aggressive, but never a dirty player.”

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“She just, you know, she loved sports,” the coach said. “And was just, yeah, a great young lady.”

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]

Evan Belanger — 861-9239

[email protected]


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