More than 500 people gather to remember Taft woman at candlelight vigil
Editor's Note: You can see how Taft Union High School students are covering the tragedy at the following links:
More than 500 people joined in a candlelight vigil Wednesday night to mourn the death of Kelsey Meadows, celebrate her life and comfort her family.
Meadows, 28, was one of the 59 people killed in the mass shooting at a country music concert in Las Vegas Sunday night.
Students, coworkers, friends and a family member spoke at the 45 minute vigil on the steps of Taft Union High School, where Kelsey attended school, graduating in 2007.
She returned to TUHS to work as a substitute teacher and her mother Stacy is information technology manager.
"As a colleague, as a friend, and a mom, I'm so sorry this happened," said Taft High Principal Mary Alice Finn. "What I want to focus on is fact that we still have each other. We still have this community."
Teacher Wes Morris opened the service.
"It just fills my heart with joy to see the support of this community here tonight," Morris said. "And I know you guys came here not because of politics, not because of hate, not because of negativity. You came here to show that the community of Taft supports one another. We just want to lift up tonight the Meadows family and we want to remember Kelsey. I thank you for showing the world, showing the country, how we do this as a community."
The people who spoke talked about a shy but very friendly person and they remember her smile.
Kelsey was attending the Route 91 concert where Jason Aldean was singing when she died. She loved country music, said her uncle Kevin.
"She was quiet on the words, but if you look at any picture she was in, she always had a big smile," said her uncle Kevin. "She really enjoyed country music, so it doesn’t surprise me she was at the festival."
About an hour earlier and 120 miles to the north, Kelsey was also remembered at her alma mater, Fresno State University with a moment of silence.
Kelsey's advisor, history professor Dr. Lori Clune still remembers her.
"I am devastated that such a wonderful student and gifted teacher died in this attack,” Clune said in a news release from the university. “It is a tragic loss.”
“Although Kelsey was in a large class of 40 students, I distinctly remember her. She contributed thoughtfully to class discussions; wrote terrific, penetrating papers; and earned a well-deserved A.”
Kelsey also excelled in student teaching, and "did a great job in her student teaching placements in Madera and Fresno, demonstrating a skill and passion for her chosen profession. She contributed a great deal to our teaching methods class and completed her credential in 2013," Clune added.
The passion she showed as a student teacher was reflected in her student contacts at Taft High. One student who spoke Wednesday talked about going into the restroom in tears. Kelsey came to talk to her. "I never expected her to reach out to me and talk to me and ask me what was wrong," she said. "I told her I felt like giving up, and she said 'pain is temporary, but quitting is forever, so keep going, cause even if nobody believes in you, I do,'" the student said. Taft Union High School is honoring Kelsey by establishing a scholarship fund in her name. The Wildcat football team will be wearing "KM" stickers on their helmets in her honor. A memorial service will be held on Saturday at 11 a.m. in the West Side Recreation and Park District Gym.