WESTBOROUGH, Mass. — Family friend Will Pringle said he wasn't sure how much Bob Marriott was going to be able to say when he faced the large Westborough crowd Saturday night.
Standing in front of about 500 people at Bay State Commons, Marriott's words were brief but meaningful as he thanked the community he calls home for the support in the search for his 19-year-old daughter, Elizabeth "Lizzi" Marriott.
"Everyone is unique — they're all formed from the community where they grew up. Lizzi is a great tribute to everyone here, and for that I thank you most of all," Marriott said, before becoming overcome with emotion and leaving the ceremony to return to his family. "Together we created an angel, and she's home in heaven."
The powerful town support was organized in just hours.
"We want to show that we're here with the family, and that our hearts break with them," the Rev. John Taylor said.
A candle was lit to symbolize Lizzi's spirit, which was then used to light the candles held by the hundreds in attendance. Taylor said a prayer for the 2011 Westborough High School graduate and University of New Hampshire student. He spoke to the crowd throughout the ceremony, emphasizing unity and love to make it thorough the difficult times.
"Words are not enough tonight, so we begin with silence," Taylor said to the crowd.
"We believe that Lizzi is with us right here in this place in your hearts and your souls. Share this light and remember Lizzi."
The support from the townspeople, many of whom have never met the Marriotts, can be seen on Twitter and Facebook, where a memorial page has been run. Greg Rota, Marriott's former teacher who helped organize the vigil said, as a father of two daughters, he can relate to what Bob Marriott is going through, "But you can never really understand."
"It's every parent's worst nightmare to get that call," said Rota, a graduate of the University of New Hampshire who was planning to be there for an alumni event Saturday night. "We're all here, unfortunately, because there are two parents who did get that call."
Rota said he was one of the teachers who wrote Lizzi a letter of recommendation for college, and has been in touch with Bob, trying to help as much as possible.
"It's been a long three days," Rota said.