GILMAN, Iowa -- It was a week of absolute tragedy for the East Marshall School District as the community dealt with multiple losses.
"It's important for small communities to get together like this for closure for the kids, and for the people," said Susanne Sietmann, a resident of Gilman.
Last week, the district lost 12-year-old Derek Cisneros in an auto accident, as well as Chad Gile in a motorcycle accident. In addition, a young girl, Lindsey Story, is battling a Leukemia diagnosis. As the tragedies stack on top of one another, Matt Gannaway of Gilman felt compelled to organize a prayer vigil Sunday afternoon.
"It was just weighing heavy on my heart, I'm friends with all of these families," he said. "And I wanted to find a way to honor them and pull our community and schools together. It seems like it's hitting the middle school here in town really hard, and I talked to a couple other parents and threw the idea out there, and I just went with it. And it just spread like wildfire."
Despite a snowstorm starting just as the vigil began, hundreds showed up to offer their support and remind these small towns making up the East Marshall School District that they aren't alone.
"It's almost indescribable for words," said John Johnson, a local pastor. "When you think about that it's 13 degrees out here and windy and everyone came out to show their support for these families --who need us now more than ever--I think that's just totally fabulous."