A large crowd gathered Monday night at Harwood Union High School in Duxbury, Vermont, to remember the lives of five teenagers killed earlier this month in a highway tragedy.
Students, educators, and community members from the Harwood Union school district honored Eli Brookens, Janie Chase Cozzi, Liam Hale, Mary Harris, and Cyrus Zschau in a celebration of life at the high school.
"We will remain stronger together," school superintendent Brigid Nease told the packed gymnasium.
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The teens died Oct. 8 in a fiery crash on I-89 in Williston.
Steven Bourgoin, 36, of Williston, the suspect prosecutors described as a mentally erratic wrong- way-driver, has pled not guilty to five second-degree murder charges and is being held in jail without bail.
The Vermont State Police is still actively investigating the circumstances that led up to the crash.
During Monday night's public memorial at Harwood, which followed a series of private family services, the teens' friends and teachers honored their lives, one by one.
"Eli impacted many lives and will be truly missed by all," said Zinn Wolfe, a friend and ski buddy of Eli Brookens.
"She'd hate to see us go through our days sad and broken just because we think she’s not here," student Anna Jarecki said of Janie Chase Cozzi, who attended Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire but remained in close contact with Harwood friends in her hometown. "But she's in the wind. She's in the river, she's in the mountains, and she's in our hearts."
"We all need to remember and celebrate that we all were lucky to have spent the 16 years we did have with Liam," Anna Fortier said of Liam Hale.
"What happened two weeks ago was a tragedy, but in the midst of the tears and the hugs, I'd like to think of the life that boy lived, and how many lives of others he made better – including mine," Cyrus Zschau's friend Eli Hammond told the audience gathered at the school.
"Mary was the friendliest, sweetest, most intelligent, and outgoing person I ever met," recalled Lauryn Green, describing Mary Harris.
Musician Grace Potter, who graduated from Harwood in 2001, attended the memorial service and performed her hit song, "Stars," dedicating it to her fellow Harwood Highlanders.
After she sang, Potter wrote a message on Instagram, asking Vermonters to remember to be gentle and compassionate as the community continues healing. Potter implored people to keep sharing love and to stay "Harwood Strong."