South Lake Tahoe residents gather for Smith vigil
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — The glow from scores of candles seemed to become brighter as the sun set, and the dim, flickering lights highlighted the sorrow in people’s faces as the meadow became darker.
Family, friends and other members of the community who wanted to show their respect and support to Dejon “Dede” Smith and his family gathered Thursday evening in the area of Glenwood Way and Rancho Way for a candlelight vigil.
The vigil came exactly a week after Smith left his home on Dec. 11 and didn’t return.
Through tears and sobs, Smith’s mother, Taneka, and father, Deshawn, Smith repeatedly thanked the people present for their words and their parents.
“We really appreciate everyone coming out here and showing all the love and support that everyone has been giving me and Deshawn. We love you Dede,” Taneka said in front of the crowd.
As the ceremony continued, people kept arriving through the trees and from the street. On Glenwood Way, most of the parking spots near the intersection were taken.
The scene was somber, though sometimes stories about Smith brought some crying laughter to the crowd. As they watched and listened to the stories, people cried in couples or in groups, others cried alone and some simply stood and listened.
Mostly everyone who wanted to speak had the opportunity, and most people dedicated their moments with the microphone to remembering times they spent with Smith.
The afternoon was cold, and it got colder as the day got darker, but few seemed to be scared off by the cooling night.
During the ceremony, Dejon’s life was told in snippets that included anecdotes from his childhood through the days prior to his death.
An uncle talked about the days around Dejon’s birth and the happiness he brought to his mother.
A cousin from Stockton reminisced about times when he would visit Tahoe and stayed with the Smiths. He spoke about the games they played as children and how those few days they spent together were the most fun he had.
“I don’t think I’m going to come back to Tahoe, ever,” the cousin said.
Many students also spoke about Dejon as a student and a friend. They spoke repeatedly about his smile, about his time on the football team and about the fun likeable teenage boy in the classroom.
One student spoke about her first day of school and when she met Dejon.
“I remember he smiled and I was kind of sad because no one was really talking to me. But, he talked to me, he smiled at me and it made me really happy,” the girl said.
As the ceremony began to reach its end, people began to say their goodbyes.
“Rest in paradise, Dejon Smith,” one person said and many repeated as most people began to raise their candles.
With her last words in front of the crowd, Taneka talked about her last conversation with Dejon.
“He told us he loved us … and we told him we loved him ’cause we said it so much all day. Everyday. And that was the last time we got to tell our son, and hear his voice, that we loved him too. Thank you,” she said.
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The annual Pony Express re-ride arrived in western Nevada on Thursday, coming into Douglas County from California on the way to St. Joseph, Missouri.