Winston-Salem, N.C. — There’s an outpouring of support for the Winston-Salem community after the death of student 15-year-old William Chavis Raynard Miller Jr.
Thursday morning, a memorial started to form at the entrance of Mount Tabor High School. Bouquets of flowers, candles, and balloons were placed there, as police continued to guard the school’s entrances. While students were allowed to pick up their cars from the parking lot, the school will be closed until Tuesday, September 7.
Mount Tabor United Methodist Church opened its doors Thursday afternoon for anyone who needed to pray. The church planned an evening prayer vigil in honor of Miller. Crowds of students, parents, teachers and coaches were there to support each other while remembering their fellow student.
Lead pastor Lonnie Pittman wants the community to know faith can be comforting in these times.
“We also believe in a God that has overcome the world, and offers hope in the midst of that, so we cling to those two truths in this time, and we remind them that we are here for prayer, for comfort, for advice and sometimes just for a shoulder to lean on,” Pittman said.
Pittman reflected on when he first heard of the shooting at Mount Tabor High School. He and his staff were fielding frantic emails, phone calls and texts from families waiting to hear from their students. While the church had to lockdown because it was in close proximity to the school, more than 40 buses were held in the church’s parking lot, awaiting orders from authorities to pick up students.
“When you see the police cars, when you see the lights, when you hear the sounds and then you see the choppers flying around, you realize how serious of a situation it is. We were all just in a state of prayer and reflection,” Pittman said.
Surrounding schools are showing their support for Mount Tabor as well. West Forsyth High School seniors, Madison Spangler and Sophia Cleaver, painted a simple message on the school’s spirit rock. In Spartan colors, blue and yellow, is written “United.” and “Spartan strong.”
“I would like to say 'We love you, we support you, we stand with you and we’re always here for you no matter what,'” Spangler said.
Spangler, who is student body president at West Forsyth High School, checked in with Mount Tabor’s student body president. Cleaver sent photos of the spirit rock to her friend at Mount Tabor as well.
“It was really hard. They all had their own experiences with it, but for this it was an opportunity to show that we love and support them,” Cleaver said.
Students at West Forsyth messaged Spangler with the idea of painting the spirit rock in solidarity with Mount Tabor. Spangler replied saying that it was already taken care of.