CHARDON, Ohio - Chardon High School Students, teachers and area first-responders walked to remember the three lives lost in a school shooting, which happened exactly one year ago Wednesday.
"It's been a hard day in the sense that it has been one year, but it's also been a great day in the support they've given to each other," said Andy Fetchik, principal at Chardon High School.
About a thousand people made the 15-minute trek from Chardon High School to the town square, where a ceremony was held. A majority of the participants dressed in black and red, the school's colors, and linked arm-in-arm.
"We've rallied around togetherness and knowing there's people there for us, to know we have each other," Fetchik said.
Chardon classmates Demetrius Hewlin, Russell King Jr, and Daniel Parmertor lost their lives on Feb. 27 when TJ Lane opened fire in the school's cafeteria. Lane, who was waiting for a bus to an alternative school, pleaded guilty to the shooting Tuesday at a court hearing.
"We don't want to be remembered for the tragedy. We want to be remembered for the strength and unity we have together," said Joe Bergant, superintendent of Chardon Local Schools.
A strong sense of unity was evident immediately following the shooting. Chardon students completed a similar walk the day classes resumed last year. That time, classmates gathered at the town square and walked together to the high school.
There's also been strong support from the community over the past year, and Wednesday was no different. Hundreds of residents lined the streets and watched as the group slowly and silently walked past.
"Kids need to talk, express themselves and through this tragic event they've learned and given themselves permission to tell people something is wrong," Bergant said.
Bergant said the students have learned numerous valuable lessons since the tragic day while not forgetting the victims.
"There's going to be three empty chairs at graduation this year, and that'll always be in our hearts," Fetchik said.
Following Wednesday's ceremony, students walked back to the high school, where they were given hot chocolate and then dismissed for the day.