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Classmates remember Abigail and Eder Arroyo

McKenzie Loehr couldn’t imagine the amount of support on display during a vigil June 10 to memorialize Joliet siblings Abigail and Eder Arroyo who drown last month in the Kankakee River.

Loehr and Anthony Garcia organized the vigil for their Gompers Junior High School classmates. They started planning the event just days after they heard about the Memorial Day tragedy.

“They were funny, nice, smart and loving,” Loehr said of her classmates. Abigail was a seventh-grade student at Gompers, and Eder was in sixth grade.

Loehr’s mother, Melissa, said it was nice to see students at Gompers take the initiative to organize the vigil.

“The kids put [the event] together,” she said, noting the sense of ownership they shared in organizing the effort to honor their classmates.

The vigil was held on the soccer field at Gompers Junior High School, and it featured a performance by the school’s choir program – of which Abigail, Loehr and Garcia were all members – a balloon release, and a candle lighting memorial.

“To take something so tragic and turn it into something positive, there’s really no words to explain how proud of them we are,” Melissa Loehr said.

According to a Facebook event page, the gathering drew the interest of more than 250 people. Among those in attendance offering their condolences to the Arroyo family was Joliet Mayor Bob O’DeKirk.

Alicia Morales, of Joliet, was one of many in attendance at the vigil who spoke. She said she didn’t know the Arroyo family, but added that she felt compelled to be there.

“As a mom, I was touched by the situation that happened,” she said. “I kept thinking about it and I thought, ‘you know somebody has to do something.’”

Those in attendance also signed a message board to memorialize what Abigail and Eder meant to them. At the end of the vigil, the board was presented to the Arroyo family. Flowers and balloons were sold during the event to benefit the Arroyos.

Melissa Loehr added that the goal of the vigil was to help provide a source of relief to the family and others in the community who are affected.

“Their main goal was to show the family they were loved by many,” she said.

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