BIG SANDY, TENN. - It didn’t take long for the crowd to grow Monday for the visitation for Sonny Melton at Big Sandy High School.
The gym was already set up for Tuesday’s funeral with rows of metal folding chairs. Those rows of chairs helped bring the line fully into the building as people weaved their way among the rows.
“I’m not sure what to say when we get up there,” Henry County High School assistant football coach Tony Bond said. “There’s nothing you can say; it’s a horrible situation.”
Melton was one of the 59 people killed Oct. 1 in the Las Vegas shooting. He was shot in the back while getting his wife, Heather, to safety.
It took about an hour-and-a-half to get through the line from the lobby to the family, where Heather and the rest of the Melton and Gulish families met with friends offering condolences, hugs and memories.
The school’s parking lot isn’t as big as most other schools’ lots, so parking quickly spread throughout the surrounding area. As some were parking a quarter-mile away, others were being brought in from churches like The Rock Church of God of Prophecy about a mile away, and First Baptist of Big Sandy.
Sonny’s father, James, talked about the amount of love the family has received since his son’s death.
“To see all the signs and balloons and even green glowsticks as we came back into town (Saturday night), it’ll make your heart beat fast — that kind of thing,” James Melton said.
There were pieces of memories of Sonny displayed in the lobby, including a television screen with a video collage of photos for people to watch as they waited to move through the line.
Some of Sonny’s favorite country songs played over the sound system in the gym. Some seemed to resonate with people more than others like Thomas Rhett’s “Die a Happy Man” and Brad Paisley’s “When I Get Where I’m Going.”
Another video loop of pictures of Sonny was projected on the gym wall as photos of him, including as a toddler, in high school and college, milestone days with his parents, his wedding and concerts with Heather.
Matt French grew up with Sonny in Big Sandy and was co-captain of the Red Devils baseball team with him.
“He’s always been my hero, someone to look up to,” said French, who now lives in Murray, Kentucky. “I just couldn’t believe he was gone when I heard about it.”
Reach Brandon Shields at email@example.com or at 731-425-9751. Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon or on Instagram at editorbrandon.
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