Hundreds of students, parents, faculty and staff milled around inside the gymnasium at Blackman High School, some hugging, some crying, as the community mourned the loss of two teens who were killed in a car wreck Saturday morning.
"(The officer) said that they were coming around, from my understanding, a curve... the vehicle hit some kind of concrete embankment and ultimately flipped over and landed in the creek where, at that point, the vehicle caught flames," said Theodore Adams, whose son Johntae, a rising junior football and track athlete at BHS, didn't survive the crash.
Another teen, Ethan Economy, was killed, and three others were injured in the accident, one of whom sat in the auditorium Sunday night.
Authorities had not released the names of all the students involved as of press time.
"We're out here tonight to support each other, and to support the five young gentleman who were involved in such a tragic accident," Dr. Leisa Justus, Blackman High School principal, told the crowd. "We have one who is still in the hospital and needs our prayers."
New Vision Youth Pastor Danny Hardy, the football team's character coach, offered up a prayer and a supportive presence for those hurting.
While he also knew Johntae Adams and others involved in the accident, Hardy said his priority is to help grieving students.
"It's more for them, just being there for that," said Hardy. "Because as a high schooler, they don't know how to navigate that."
Several students crowded around a table, writing notes for the families and the victims.
"We want to say a special thanks to Blackman High School, to the principals, to the staff members," said Adams. "We thank everyone for your support. We need your prayers."
"My son was full of love and compassion for people," said Adams, who lost another son to gun violence in 2014. He credits God for his strength through these difficult times.
"We don't know when our time will come, so let's begin to spread the love."
"The outpouring of support for our team, school and community this afternoon and today has been overwhelming," tweeted Blackman Football Coach David Watson Saturday night. "I have received calls, texts and tweets from friends and coaches across our state at both the high school and collegiate level. We are very appreciative of your thoughts and prayers. Please continue to remember these young men involved in this tragedy as well as their families, friends and teammates. We will lean on each other in the days ahead to get through this very difficult time. Again, thank you all so very much from the Blackman Community."
Tennessee Highway Patrol is investigating the accident.
GoFundMe pages for both Adams and Economy have been set up. For more information, visit https://www.gofundme.com/inlovingmemoryofjohntaeadams and https://www.gofundme.com/742d7h-help-for-a-grieving-mother.