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Connecticut Connection: Maryville family loses grandniece in shooting

11:51 PM, Dec 19, 2012   |    comments
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Cafeteria worker Margie Hendershot is staying busy feeding Maryville High School's students.

She says that's what she needs right now to help with the pain.

Hendershot received a phone call Friday at school from her sister. She told her that her 6-year-old grandniece, Jessica Rekos, was missing after a gunman entered a Connecticut elementary school and opened fire.

After hours of not knowing, Hendershot found out she would never see Jessica again. She was one of the 20 children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary.

"She had a great personality. She was funny, a great sister to two little brothers. She ruled the house. She was loving," said Hendershot of her grandniece.

"There's no words for it. It's devastating," said Cafeteria Manager Debbie Ace.

Her co-workers watched her pain and knew they had to do something.

"We're a family here," Ace said.

First, they prayed. "We just embraced her, tried to comfort her."

Then, they found out Jessica's favorite color: purple. They sent out a faculty email asking teachers to wear purple in honor of Jessica. Those teachers shared the news with their students.

"Later that night I went home and I saw a purple card just lying around. And it said "Who loves you? I do," said student, Erikah Bradley, "I thought, she needs something to let her know that people care about her."

On Tuesday, the day of Jessica's funeral, the majority of students and staff wore purple.

Entire classes of students signed or made cards and took them to Hendershot.

"We gave her the card and gave her a hug and told her if she needed anything to let us know," said student Bailey Thompson.

"Everybody came together, everybody showed support and understanding, and we're just really appreciative and proud of Maryville High School to see this union of students and adults," said Ace.

Her work family is providing a shoulder to lean on, even though her heart is hundreds of miles away.

"It was great. I've never seen anything like it," said Hendershot.

Hendershot said she's in constant contact with her family. She plans to visit them soon when things have calmed down in Newtown.

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