FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – Hundreds of people gathered to celebrate the life of 9-year-old Aliahna Lemmon at a public memorial service Thursday night.
It was an emotional night as people remembered the beauty of a little girl amidst the ugliness of her murder. A memorial service was held for 9-year old Aliahna Lemmon at the First Assembly of God Church on Washington Center Rd.
Indiana’s NewsCenter was not allowed to take cameras inside, but were able to attend the service. Inside, the atmosphere was very quiet and somber.
Little Aliahna died just three days before Christmas, Allen County police say, at the brutal hands of 39-year old Michael Plumadore. But at the service Thursday night, people were urged to look at it as a "celebration of Aliahna’s life.”
Kourtney Bryant says she attended the memorial because she was one of many who searched for Aliahna when she went missing. Bryant says she was there when police discovered Aliahna’s remains.
“I just thought that it would be good support for her and her family to show up here,” Bryant said.
As people walked in and found their seats, soft piano music played and slides of a smiling Aliahna were shown. There was a small memorial set-up in the front of the church with a photo of Aliahna, flowers, stuffed animals, and what looked like a framed T-shirt hat was signed by classmates or staff members from Holland Elementary School where Aliahna was a third grader.
Many of the pictures on display included Aliahna's favorite things - Tinkerbell, unicorns, and family. Some were school pictures, and others were candid photos catching the young girl's true spirit. From all appearances, Aliahna appeared to be a happy, energetic child who will be dearly missed.
The processional began and ushers escorted Aliahna's family, including her mother, who was walking, and her father from Iowa to the front pews. Her mother’s cousin, Elisabeth Sepponen, read a poem called “Do Not Weep.”
Mike Haywood, Principal at Holland Elementary, spoke about a piece of artwork by Aliahna—an outlining of her left hand. Bryant says that part of the memorial brought tears to her eyes.
“It was hard knowing that she was such an out-going, energetic, positive little girl and that horrible thing happened to her,” Bryant said. “It really brought people together and I think it’s going to bring some kind of closure for a lot of little kids that she went to school with."
Inside her hand's outline was a smiling face - something Aliahna was known for. They eyes were stars. Haywood said it brought to memory Aliahna's big, bright eyes that many recall seemed soak in all the world had to offer. The tongue was a heart, which teachers said was fitting given her kind spirit and ability to forgive others.
The artwork will now become a part of a permanent memorial to Aliahna at Holland Elementary.
Haywood also spoke about Aliahna's loving, nurturing spirit towards her four siblings, especially her two younger sisters. He said Aliahna could often be seen wrapping her arms around both girls as they stood waiting for the bus.
Another moment that stood out was when Pastor Joe Hines, of Auburn Church of Christ, asked everyone in the congregation to hold hands and say the Lord’s Prayer. He says it symbolized a sense of community and that we're all a family in Fort Wayne and in God’s eyes. By the 400-500 people who attended the memorial service, it was obvious Aliahna's life touched many lives in the community.
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