Students remember death of a friend

More than 100 people gathered at Merriam Christian Church Aug. 16 for the one-year anniversary of the death of Justin Brown, class of 2010. Attendees held blue and white balloons with notes and letters for Brown tied to the strings.

“I came up with the letter idea when my mom and I were discussing how writing to him helps us remember him and cope. I thought it would be a nice respectful way to celebrate his life,” said Abigail Baldwin, Brown’s sister.

Most stood talking with friends while writing their letters; others reminisced with family members told stories about Brown.

“Life is crazy; that’s why I always say live now,” said Kenny Schreimann, one of Brown’s closest friends. “No one is ever promised a tomorrow.”

When the sun set, Baldwin and her cousin, Jessica Bentz, emerged from the crowd and asked everyone to gather around. They started off by thanking everyone who came out and then shared stories about him.

“Every Christmas, Justin would always steal something of mine. This Christmas everyone in my family knew this year was going to be different,” Bentz said. “After opening all of our presents, somehow my Starbucks gift card just disappeared, and I never found it.”

After they shared memories, Schreimann was the first to let go of his balloon. Soon hundreds of blue and white balloons, connected with memories, floated above Shawnee.