Drive by the Hansen Elementary School on Central St. in Stoughton and you will see two poignant reminders of the tragic accident on the afternoon of Sept. 14 which resulted in the death of Shayla Lutz, the 3-year-old struck by a box truck as she crossed the street with her mother.
One is a cross with an abundance of stuffed animals and flowers all placed in her memory by the crosswalk sign just past the Central St. driveway to the school. The other are the words 'WE SHARE OUR SORROW,' on the school display board.
By hosting a candlelight vigil last Friday evening, Sept. 21, the Hansen School P.T.O. put action behind those very words.
The school parking lot was full as nearly 150 people gathered with the Lutz family to show their support, candles in hand, including Hansen School principal Faye Polillio, teachers, parents, students, town officials, and community members.
Shayla, remembered in her obituary as a young girl who "enjoyed playing with her brother and sister, singing, karate, trips to the park, animals and riding a dirtbike," is survived by her mom and dad, Melissa and William, sister Ashleigh, and brother Jeremy.
"Shayla’s death was so painful and tragic, but what made it painful was that it wasn’t unimaginable to us. We’re all parents of children that were being dismissed from the Hansen School that day. We’ve all driven and walked along that street and we’ve all had children pull away from us. We know that it could have been one of us, one of our children," Hansen School PTO president Jennifer Durand wrote in an email.
"So many parents wanted to do something for Missy, Billy and the kids," she continued. "Apart from setting up the trust fund to help them with expenses, we decided that getting together as a community might help them. It might be a way to show them that, although they’d lost Shayla, they weren’t alone. The Hansen family and the Stoughton community would be here for them."
At the vigil, there were prepared statements of support from P.T.O. members, like Andy Kellogg's reading of Shel Silverstein's, Where the Sidewalk Ends.
When Kellogg then asked if anyone in the community would like to speak, a Hansen School mother of three, Kelly Gately, came forward and said "We as a community are devastated by your loss...please let us help you! Anything you may need, just ask. We are here to help you."
Gately's teary-eyed plea to offer assistance in this time of sorrow was followed by a moment of silence. Kellogg asked the those gathered to, "raise their candles to Shayla".
He concluded the hour long vigil with the heartfelt words: "though the flame may go out, [Shayla is] forever in our hearts".
Donations in Shayla's memory may be made to the Lutz Family Trust, c/o Stoughton Co-operative Bank, PO Box 446, Stoughton, MA 02072.