STONEWALL, LA (KSLA) – North DeSoto Parish students returned to school Tuesday, one week to the day after the body of 12 year old Justin Bloxom's body was found in the woods off Highway 171.
"Letting go" was the theme at North DeSoto's football stadium, where students from all four of the schools that surround it sent up prayers and balloons in Justin's memory. Three of his brothers also attend schools here. One is in high school, the other two attend the elementary school.
Pre K-5 principal Brandon Burback began the memorial by reassuring the students that the emotions they may be experiencing are natural, and they are feelings he shares with them. "My heart is broken, I'm very very angry at what has happened."
"To help us all move forward, we have to release some of these emotions," continued North DeSoto High School principal Bart Weaver.
More than 500 students gathered on the field, surrounding Justin's family. "We are going to celebrate his life by living our lives," Middle School principal Keith Simmons told the crowd, "This morning, we remember our friend Justin." They did so by vowing to be there for their friends, be better students, better Christians, laugh more and be less negative.
"You just have to think God does things for a reason," said one of several students who shared memories of their murdered classmate. "Just like the saying, 'you can't let the storm pass, you have to dance in the rain.'"
Simmons says it's all part of helping the kids move on. "We've all had to work through different emotions, from sadness to anger to confusion, frustration and sometimes all these things come at once. But all of these things are very natural. This is just part of the process in terms of just beginning to let go of those things, and we'll have to continue to let go of those things."
The memorial culminated with the release of dozens of white balloons, carrying student's prayers and commitments to live their lives in celebration of Justin's as "Letting Go," by Christian artist Jeremy Camp played on a public address system set up on the field. Some held hands, others hugged as the balloons were carried away by the wind.. Bloxom's family lingered after the release to receive hugs and condolences from students, staff and parents following the memorial.
It's a process Simmons hopes will help the community as a whole. "These young people have had an opportunity today to step up to say, 'We're okay, you can be okay.' And they've really been a source of strength for this community."