It’s been a tragic few weeks and months in Sampson County Schools, with the tragic loss of students at Midway Middle, Lakewood High, Midway High and now Hobbton Middle.
But through all the tragedies, one thing has been clear — communities and school families have pulled together, held each other up and pulled each other through the difficult times and helped to heal the hurt of unthinkable tragedies.
Such was certainly the case Monday at Hobbton Middle, just one day after an eighth-grader died from a tragic family incident that law enforcement officers believe came at the hands of the young girl’s father, who killed himself after apparently firing a weapon at his daughter.
No one knows what unfolded on Hunter Road last Friday night, but one thing is for certain — Larissa Estrada was a much beloved young woman who was praised, honored and mourned by dozens upon dozens of her friends, classmates and teachers who all called the teen a remarkable, witty individual who could always make you smile.
Through the tears shed Monday came a strength that nearly unfolded before our eyes, as administrators, counselors, social workers and teachers comforted students, being there solid shoulders one minute and, the next, the helping hand needed to tie memorial tributes and words of love written on yellow ribbons to a tree outside the school.
That same strength carried over to the soccer field where eighth-grades joined hands, formed a circle and sent balloons skyward even as tears fell toward the ground, a proper sendoff for a young girl liked and admired by so many.
It was a coming together of a close-knit school family who pull together in good times and bad, making life a little easier for those who are suffering and a little brighter for those who are celebrating.
It is closeness that doesn’t end at the school doors, either. It’s the same kind of closeness that is extended throughout the Hobbton community where, on Monday, businesses in the Newton Grove community joined with school staff to help ensure that the events that unfolded Monday would be dignified and appropriate both the Estrada and the young students who were trying to cope with her passing.
Food Lion contributed the helium used to fill up the balloons launched into the afternoon sky and Circle Florist contributed the purple and white ribbon affixed to the front of the school in Larissa’s memory, as well as the yellow ribbons used to write memorial tributes to the young girl.
Together, those in the Hobbton community helped to begin the healing process for young people likely wondering how such a tragedy could befall their friend.
It’s that kind of close-knit family atmosphere that makes schools in Sampson County and Clinton City special, where faculty and staff work side-by-side with community members for the betterment of young people and, at times like these, for their healing.
There’s no way to erase the tragedy that befell one of their own, but the love and strength demonstrated in the Hobbton community Monday reminds us that loving our neighbor is the very best way to heal the hurt, uplift the spirit and make those good days just a little better.