UPDATE: Brainerd JROTC Cadets take down makeshift memorial on Talley Road
Family members of the Woodmore bus crash victims gathered at the memorial Wednesday to say their goodbyes.
UPDATE: Family members of the Woodmore bus crash victims gathered at the memorial Wednesday to say their goodbyes.
The memorial site on Talley Road was taken down but not before family members had the chance to take what they wanted.
Several school officials including Woodmore's Principal and Assistant Principal were there and together in a moment of silence, there were many tears and hugs.
Brainerd JROTC Cadets say they were honored to be apart of preserving the memorial items. They took the job seriously and handled each individual teddy bear with extreme care.
"I honestly don't even know what to say," said Edwrick Bishop, Brainerd JROTC Cadet.
There are no words to describe the pain and grief each of these Woodmore families must be facing. The makeshift memorial along Talley Road has grown each day in our hearts and saying goodbye to it isn't easy.
"It is hard to say goodbye, I mean this is where it was at so, it's hard to forget this area," said Lakendrea Taylor, Brainerd JROTC cadet. " I don't even really think you can say goodbye."
17-year-old, Lakendrea Taylor is one of many Brainerd JROTC Cadets who carefully packed up the stuffed animals, roses candles and balloons with messages of hope and prayer.
"A balloon had 2 bears on it and it had a try me button on it and I tried it and it started saying a prayer and I remembered saying that prayer like every night before I went to bed when I was younger," said Taylor.
A moment that makes this scene all too real for kids still trying to understand why.
"I feel a little bit sad because my cousin was in the wreck and it really struck close to home," said Jadarius Stallworth, Brainerd JROTC Cadet.
Victims' family members got first choice in the items they wanted to keep, Channel 3 respected their wishes not to be filmed. The rest of the items will be taken to Brainerd Youth and Family Development Center until a more permanent home can be found.
"Those young children lost their lives but they did touch lives in their short stay here and they did make a difference," said Maj. Wilford Blowe, Brainerd JROTC.
For some of the cadets, it's a life lesson in love and strength.
"Chattanooga can actually come together as one and help each other," said Taylor.
"It means that the community at Brainerd, that we actually care about our people," said Stallworth. " We've already been through the hard part, the only thing left now is to get better."
While the makeshift memorial is now gone, community members say it will never be forgotten. School officials say there are talks of a permanent memorial one day but nothing has been made official and we'll let you know if that changes.
PREVIOUS STORY: It's been a little more than two weeks since a Hamilton County school bus crashed on Talley Road. The crash killed six elementary school students.
Officials say two students are still in the hospital in fair condition and several others are at home recovering from their injuries.
People still visit the scene of the crash to this day. Property owner Mary Smith says the memorial continues to grow and has touched the hearts of many.
"There was a little fellow that came by last night with it and he was crying, he didn't understand," said Mary Smith. "Another couple came this morning and they were from out of state."
People still go there to grieve, pray and be alone in their thoughts. Smith says she tries her best to keep it all nice. She's in the process of cleaning a couple of bears that were damaged in the rain.
"The first couple of three days I couldn't come out the front. I had to come out the back because of the memories, you know, of seeing the bus and the kids and all," said Smith.
She now reads the messages left behind. She says the teddy bears and the balloons still flying high give her strength.
"I come out here and try to make sure that they are not on the ground." said Smith. "I feel the love of the people not only in this community but abroad."
Chattanooga Tent Company plans to take the tent down on Monday, weather permitting. The memorial will soon be removed, too. Smith wants the victims' family members to know, they are welcome.
"I would love for them to come and be first choice," said Smith.
She would like to see everything else go somewhere safe. The school system has coordinated with families to make sure that happens.
"You can see it all what's here and nobody would want this to go to waste," said Smith.
Smith has heard talk of a permanent memorial one day and she's even been asked to consider one herself, but it's a question she hasn't quite found the answer to just yet.
"I've been here for a long time, for 42 years, and it would be kind of hard but then again it's going to be hard to come out everyday knowing that five kids passed in my yard," said Smith. "So, I don't really know; I'll take it day by day."
READ MORE | Channel 3's coverage of the Woodmore bus crash