Last week, the country was once again rocked by the news of yet another school shooting: This time, the campus was an elementary school in Townville, South Carolina, where a 14-year-old shooter stormed the playground and opened fire during recess, injuring one teacher and two kindergarten students before emergency responders closed in.
One of those students was 6-year-old Jacob Hall, who would bravely cling to life for several days before sadly passing away Saturday, Oct. 1, surrounded by family and wrapped in a Ninja Turtles blanket.
Today, as hundreds of mourners gathered, Jacob was buried in a funeral service befitting the superhero-loving boy he was. According to ABC News, the altar at the Oakdale Baptist Church in Townville was decorated with hundreds of brightly-colored flowers and those who attended the mass were asked to dress in superhero garb themselves — some arriving in full costume, others wearing superhero-themed t-shirts.
Mourners inside the church ranged from friends and family to local police and firemen. But perhaps most heartbreaking of all, was the sight of small children packing the church pews and donning pint-sized capes and badges as they paid their respects to their former school friend.
Outside, the line of mourners stretched for blocks, weaving through the parking lot and down the street.
Prior to the service, Jacob’s parents released this heartbreaking statement:
“Jacob came into our lives six years and four months ago and changed it completely. He showed us how to love, laugh and smile even on days we did not want to. God gave him to us and he was taken away from us by a senseless act.
We know that Jacob has already forgiven this child for what he did to him and his family because that’s the kind of child he was. Jacob was sent to this earth for this short a period of time to show us that there is such a thing as pure love. Jacob is in heaven with God now and everyone who loves him. Words cannot express how much we will miss him.”
As heart-wrenching as the funeral service was for those in attendance, many noted that the overriding messages were of hope and forgiveness. And some of that was thanks to Jacob himself.
When associate pastor Tim Marcengill spoke, he relayed a story Jacob’s mother Renae had told him earlier. “[Jacob] said: ‘Mama, Jesus loves everyone,'” shared Marcengill. “Even those people who do bad things.'”
John Buckland, who came dressed as Batman and later delivered the eulogy, encouraged the crowd to never forget the truth behind those words — meaningful words spoken by an innocent little 6-year-old, who was clearly wise beyond his years.
“Take what you have learned from Jacob,” said Buckland. “Let it make you a better husband, a better father, a better brother, a better sister, a better everything.”
The Townville shooting sadly marks the 197th shooting on school grounds since 2013, according to Everytown for Gun Safety. That translates to one gun being shot on school grounds per week. You can learn more about gun violence statistics, as well as the methods being proposed to lower them, at EverytownResearch.org.
If you would like to offer your support to the Hall family, a GoFundMe page has been set up by a family friend in Jacob’s honor. All funds will be put towards the cost of medical bills from Jacob’s hospital stay.