Family and friends of Mezmariah Wilson honored the memory of the 15-year-old Terre Haute South Vigo High School student Friday night with a candlelight vigil, balloon release and procession around the Sullivan Courthouse Square.
A large gathering paid tribute to Wilson, who was shot in Carlisle about 12 a.m. Thursday and died later that morning. She was from Shelburn.
"We should never have to gather to see the loss of a young leader in our community. And we are angered and hurt and we carry all these things at the injustice of what we have seen," said Pastor Lance Newton of Sullivan First United Methodist Church, which helped facilitate the vigil.
In prayer, he asked God to "receive her into your loving arms and help us as we grieve to care for one another in this time, to honor her memory, to take the lessons learned from Mezi and share them with others."
A candlelight vigil took place outside the church and included a balloon release. Those gathered then walked south along Court Street to the courthouse square, where they walked around the courthouse multiple times.
Among those attending was Wilson's grandmother, Connie Mellinger. "I just can't get her face out of my mind. We just talked that night," she said. "She's got a lot of family who want justice."
Family came from as far as Indianapolis to attend Friday's vigil. "This is how much she's loved," said Mellinger, who broke down in tears. "God please, everybody help me. Help me."
Her granddaughter "was so worried about me dying, because my health has gotten worse. To think it's her, I wish it was me," Mellinger said.
She said her grand-daughter's faith was strong, and Wilson had just returned from church camp in Tennessee. Wilson belonged to Abundant Grace House of Prayer in Sullivan. "She loved everything about church," Mellinger said. For those left behind, "She's going to be our protector."
Ryleigh Dillingham, who has been friends with Wilson for about a year, helped organize the vigil with assistance from Pastor Newton. Dillingham met Wilson during last year's Black Lives Matter protests.
"Mezmariah was extremely mighty. Extremely brave. Probably one of the most resilient people I've met," Dillingham said. "She always stood up for everyone she cared about. She was extremely sweet to everyone ... She was willing to do anything she had to do to defend someone who was defenseless."
Her death "broke my heart because I admired her a lot ... I felt I lost a good friend," Dillingham said.
Dillingham's mother, Bridget Kellams, said of Wilson, "She was very soft spoken with a very strong spirit ... She brought people together. She could start a movement. She was a loving, beautiful person."
Another family member attending the vigil was Teresa Wilson, also Mezmariah's grandmother. "She was a loving, caring, Christian girl. She loved everyone. She would do anything for anyone and help anybody that she could. They took her away from us way too soon."
The vigil began in the Sullivan First United Methodist Church, where Pastor Newton asked people to share stories about Wilson. He met her about a year ago and recalled, "Mezi was not afraid to speak her mind." He told his wife, "I hope our daughter grows up to be like this girl I met today. She is spunky, she speaks her mind and she doesn't take it from anybody."
While no one came forward, Newton urged them to share their stories among themselves and with her family, because that's how "she will live on," Newton said. "In 15 years, she made a huge impact. And that impact will continue."
Once outside the church, those gathered lit candles, including Nevaeh Gordon, 15, who knew Wilson from Abundant Grace House of Prayer. "I'm still in shock. I can picture her going to church and her sitting there on Sunday. It's just heartbreaking that she had to leave so early. She was only 15 years old; she was too young. She deserves justice," Gordon said.