“Taken too soon” was the phrase repeated numerous times during a vigil Wednesday night to honor Gabbiee Swainson’s life. Gabbiee, a student at Ridgeview High School in Richland County, was taken from her northeast Columbia home one year ago.
Law enforcement recovered Gabbiee’s body Aug. 8 from a 5-foot grave just outside of Elgin.
A light rain before the vigil did not deter those who wanted to remember Gabbiee -- cars parked along the highway, streets, local businesses and on Potter’s Community park.
As the vigil began, the drizzle gave way to a rosy pink glow in the evening sky.
“This is a sad event but it pleases my heart to see you come out,” Councilwoman Melissa Emmons told those in attendance.
Emmons recalled how nearly a year ago, community members gathered in the same area to pray for Gabbiee’s safe return.
“I’m sad to say tonight, that this is not the return we hoped for. As a Christian, I know that she is in a better place” Emmons said.
Throughout the night, sympathy was continuously extended towards Gabbiee’s family, especially towards her mother, Elvia Swainson.
“I can’t even attempt to understand what she is going through,” Emmons said.
After Emmons, Ken Jackson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church, gave the opening prayer asking for healing for the community.
A moment of silence was held after the prayer and candles were lit in Gabbiee’s honor.
“As we gather here tonight, all of us are faced with the reality that we live in a world where evil is present … but in the midst of a world were evil happens, the book of Second Corinthians tells us that there is a God present among us, and He’s here tonight. He’s the God of all comfort,” Paul Miles, pastor of Highway Pentecostal Holiness Church said during the closing prayer.
Miles then asked vigil attendees to keep Gabbiee’s family, mother and law enforcement officers who worked on her case in their prayers
“You can’t deal with something like that, and be as close to this, without it affecting you,” said Miles of those who worked on Gabbiee’s case.
Following the closing prayer, purple balloons were released by Ridgeview High School students in remembrance of Gabby.