April 23, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.---Today a grieving family and the community remembered Ryan Clark.
Ryan, a young man from Martinez, was among the first to die during last week's shooting spree at Virginia Tech.
His family held his funeral this afternoon at Tabernacle Baptist Church, where friends and family said goodbye.
Mayor Deke Copenhaver marked today as a Day of Mourning for the city of Augusta for the loss of not only a brother, a son, and a friend, but an amazing person who touched the lives of everyone he knew.
Ryan Clark was just weeks from graduation. Instead of celebrating that milestone, friends and family members gathered at Tabernacle Baptist Church to honor the memory of the life that was and what could've been.
"I tried my best not to cry, because I knew he'd want to keep it that way and to be happy," said Ryan's friend Erin Dianer.
A crowd of at least a thousand people filled the church--from fellow classmates, friends and those who knew him best to city leaders, state representatives and those who say they didn't have to know him at all.
"As a mom my heart goes out to her," said Sharon McCall.
"I have children too in college," Brenda Williams said. "That could've been my daughter. For the young man to have completed degrees and have this happen...it's heartbreaking."
Ryan's fellow Marching Virginians helped carry the weight of one of their own and leaned on one another as they privately said their last goodbyes.
Katherine May was Ryan's 4th grade teacher at Blue Ridge Elementary. She says Ryan was one of her most ambitious students then, so it didn't come as a surprise when she learned he was just weeks away from graduating with a perfect 4.0 average.
"You saw the array of people here today. It's a testimony to how much he was loved and appreciated," she said.
The Director of Residence Life at Virginia Tech spoke on behalf of the students and faculty to announce that Ryan will be awarded his posthumous degrees on May 11 along with the rest of his graduating class, and the College of Science will conduct a special memorial service to celebrate Ryan's life.
Several local and state leaders, including Rep. Quincy Murphy and Sen. Ed Tarver, were also at Ryan's funeral.
Ryan was buried in Grovetown at Bellevue Memorial Gardens.