News 12 at 11 o'clock / Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012
GROVETOWN, Ga. -- It was a quiet day at Grovetown Middle School as the shock of losing a classmate set in on Thursday.
Students say the school will never be the same.
"It was real quiet and, ya know, sad. People weren't talking much," classmate and neighbor Serena Jones said.
There was a somber mood in the hallways of Grovetown Middle because it was missing a smiling face.
"She was nice and bright and outgoing, and she was always smiling when I saw her in the hallway," Jones said.
Thirteen-year-old Kristen Burnette was killed after investigators say a shotgun went off accidentally while some friends were gathered at her home.
"This is something we'd never want anyone to have to deal with, adult, or student or child, and it's a real adult kind of situation that kids are having to deal with. She was just a really cheery, bright spot in our school," Principal Tom Smallwood said.
Thanks to students and friends, now the cafeteria is a little brighter, too.
"As you can see, we have a lot of rainbows. She loved rainbows, and she loved color. And that's the kind of personality she had. She brought that color and that vibrancy to the friends that she had at our school," Smallwood said.
"It's just like a tribute to her," Jones said.
But the happy colors don't take away the pain of losing a classmate.
"It's just hard because you just saw that person that day at school and then just a couple hours later she's gone," Jones said through tears.
"Hopefully they'll take away from this they need to treat each other as nice as they can all the time because you never know when something like this is going to happen," Smallwood said.
On Friday, students will be walking around in clothing that matches their banners.
"Some of her friends decided they wanted to do something so they were cutting out rainbows for us to wear tomorrow; we're gonna wear rainbow colors to school tomorrow," Smallwood said.
As people remember Burnette, the overwhelming message is that "Kristen is gone but not forgotten."
It's not just that one smiling face Grovetown Middle is missing.
The 14-year-old boy who was holding the gun is now behind bars at the Augusta Youth Development Campus, charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Burnette's name was also added to a remembrance across town. The larger community in Augusta is honoring her memory.
On Thursday night, Trinity Hospital held its annual Night of Remembrance. There was a luminary lighting and ceremony to help people who have lost a loved one as we approach the holidays. Out of more than 200 luminaries, News 12 found Burnette's name already on one of them.