When Halle Scott was a girl, this had been her church, with its tiny chapel radiant whenever light streamed through the amber windows arching high.
It was like that Thursday, the little brick chapel of Dunwoody United Methodist Church glowing inside, every pew filled with mourners. Outside, the rest of the world went on with its lunchtime business, many oblivious to the grief contained in this little room. There was an uneasy silence inside, broken every now and then with the rip of tissues being pulled from small boxes to muffle sobs and dry tears.
There was no order of service for this memorial to Scott. The 19-year-old perished along with three fellow UGA students after their car crashed Wednesday night. A fifth friend is fighting for her life at Athens Regional Medical Center.
One by one, kids in shorts and track shoes and adults with graying hair choked out prayers. They asked what people always ask whenever a teenager has to lay a peer to rest and a parent has to bury a child: Why?
“Dear Lord, life isn’t fair and it makes me mad, but I thank you for allowing me to be mad,” said one of her former Dunwoody classmates. “I’d ask that you’d welcome them into your kingdom, but we’d ask you to help those of us who are left behind to heal.”
“We ask for the Scott family the peace that surpasses understanding descends on this family,” said a teacher.
“We feel like we’ve been stolen from,” said another.
They prayed for Halle’s family, her mother, father and older brother, who friends said was also a student at UGA.
And when they were done praying but not grieving, they huddled in aisles and in the lobby to remember Scott.
Long before she became a member of Delta Delta Delta Sorority, she was a Dunwoody High Wildcat, captain of the football cheerleading squad her senior year.
“She was welcoming when we were freshmen,” said Emily Christensen, 17. “When you’re a JV cheerleader you get a big sister and you go on this scavenger hunt to find out who your big sister is. And I saw her standing there with a big sign with my name. I was so happy. Everybody looked up to her.”
At summer cheerleading camp, she was the only one who could ever seem to get the youngest kids to pay attention and practice, said Jenna Hogan, 17. She did it not by bossing them around but by making up little songs and dances for them to do. She didn’t like to see people sitting things out, her friends said. She wanted people to be included.
Scott had been a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Dunwoody High since the 9th grade and every Friday morning could be counted on to read announcements at the group’s meeting. Steve Fortenberry, was one of her teachers and led the group. Faith played a large role in her life. But as much as she wanted to see people look past their differences and get along, she also had a quiet competitiveness, always looking to best herself. “She wanted to win,” Fortenberry said.
“She was comfortable in her own skin and at that age, you know, kids are hung up in what others think,” he said. “She wasn’t. She was confident and she had such a strong family that instilled that in her.”
Scott was the flier for her cheerleading squad, the one they tossed into the air during intricate routines. Her longtime coach Gayle Hard remembered Scott as the one who led by example and made it a point to get along with the many different groups.
That Scott seemed poised and confident in who she was is what made her a model for some of the younger girls, Hard said.
“This was a remarkable child,” she said.