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A Vigil of 300 Flickers with Solidarity and Sorrow For Meredith Smith and Lane Burnsed

| July 29, 2012

The orange candle was for Lane, the blue for Meredith: favorite colors of two teens remembered in a vigil in Flagler Beach this evening. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The orange candle was for Lane, the blue for Meredith: favorite colors of two teens remembered in a vigil in Flagler Beach this evening. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Some 300 people, most of them young like Lane Burnsed and Meredith Smith, turned out this evening for a candlelight vigil on the sands of Flagler Beach in memory of the 19 year old and the 17 year old killed Thursday evening in a wreck on I-95.

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Their friends, friends of friends, classmates, friends of their parents and people who didn’t necessarily know the teens but know the grief their parents and siblings are going through, formed a large, tight-knit huddle of orange and blue–orange was Lane’s favorite color, blue was Meredith’s–that circled around the teens’ parents. One of the people in that crowd was Kirt Smith’s sister: Kirt was just 15 when he was biking down Seminole Woods Boulevard with a friend one evening, and killed, almost a year ago, by a drunk driver.

The early evening’s gray light was soon lit by countless candles, and an improvised sound system played songs that Meredith, a varsity cheerleader, and Lane, who was thinking of following in his father’s footsteps as a fireman, had loved.

“When I received the news of the tragedy, just like the rest of you, I was devastated,” Jessica Gendoes, 22, who organized the vigil with Emalee Imperio, 20, said. “I wanted to look at it in a positive way, and the least I wanted to do is get everyone together in one area and just be there for each other, and celebrate the lives that they had, and the memories and the laughter we shared with them. My hope for the whole gathering together was just to be supportive of one another. This is all a tragedy for all of us, and we all need the support and help that we can get. I can’t thank you all enough for coming out here and paying your respects and condolences to the families. Lane and Meredith were two amazing individuals. They were taken too soon from all of us.”

Jacob Oliva, the principal at Flagler Plam Coast High School until a few weeks ago, had known Meredith as her principal and as a teacher when she was at Wadsworth Elementary. “She’s just one of those students that always stood out, was the star of every program, always had that smile,” Oliva said. “Then you get to see them again at the high school, you’re friends with their parents and you get to know them along the way, so it’s a special relationship. It’s a terrible tragedy.”

“This is something you can never plan for, prepare for or get used to. It’s unfortunate,” he continued. “To lose a life of someone in their teens and to have so many years cut short, it’s not fair. It’s not the way it’s supposed to work.”

Oliva won’t be at the high school when students return to class in less than three weeks. He’s been promoted to the central office as Janet Valentine’s deputy superintendent (she was also at the vigil, herself having spent the last several weeks helping her daughter recover from a shattering wreck on I-95). Today’s vigil wasn’t the kind of reunion the students had banked on. Oliva predicted a roller-coaster of emotions, but his advice to them was not to do it alone. “We’ve got plenty of adults and counselors and friends and family, and to seek their support networks and take care of themselves.”

Over the weekend the cheerleaders met together with their coach and Oliva and “were able to remember some of the positive things about Meredith, It was a great assembly,” Oliva said.

During the vigil, Oliva had addressed the crowd and, inspiring himself from the words of Dave Frohnmayer (the president of the University of Oregon who delivered a moving tribute during a candlelight vigil three days after the 9/11 attacks), had spoken of the vigil as, “by its own definition and our intention, a remembrance of the loss of life of two of our every own, Meredith Smith and Lane Burnsed. The candles that are soon to be lit, bright and flaming, yet small and extinguishable, will burn with many emotions, and the candles will reflect light in a time of darkness.”

Deylon Bitner, Meredith’s boyfriend of almost nine months–they were best friends since middle school–has been contending with the loss for the last few days. “It’s been a blank memory. I don’t really know what to do, know what to act, know how to be or anything. I freeze up at times, just lost,” he said by phone earlier in the day. “I want you guys to know her as the fun, outgoing girl who never really cared about what anyone thought of her, and did as she wanted to live her life, and how she was going to go far and do so much. She was an amazing girl.” She was intent on applying at Princeton University to study business and marketing.

Meredith’s mother had come to Deylon’s door at 7 a.m. Friday morning to give the terrible news. The previous evening, Deylon and Meredith had been texting steadily, and suddenly the texts stopped. Deylon thought Meredith’s phone’s battery had run out. He kept texting, then went to bed, thinking there’d be a text from her in the morning.

Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Jessica Gendoes, in orange, and Emalee Imperio, in blue, organized the vigil. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The view from the pier. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

meredith smith and lane burnsed candlelight vigil.

Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

meredith smith and lane burnsed candlelight vigil.

Final words. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

13 Responses for “A Vigil of 300 Flickers with Solidarity and Sorrow For Meredith Smith and Lane Burnsed”

  1. Justin says:

    Rest in pace Meredith and Lane.

  2. Robert Lewis says:

    I pray that God give these families the peace and understanding these next few days. I usually comment on politics in the local community. This story as touched my heart at the loss of two young people who obviously made an impact on everyone of these young people lives.

    I pray for their families and all of their friends.

  3. haw creek girl says:

    A strong support of love for the child of our friends, put together by good kids supported by a strong administration. Praise God.

  4. Corey miller Branning says:

    How i wish we could have been there.. Thank you Brown Bear for the pictures you sent me.. I cant believe this is happening again? When my baby brother Ant Rogers passed in wreck April Lane was there and Had my back… Now im going to watch sum 1 close as a Brother be laid to Rest Wed and Ants 20th Bday Memorial this Saturday.. I know yall are prolly together fishing in heaven.. Miss you Both… much love little brothers…. RIP Anthony Rogers and Lane Burnsed!! your big bro

  5. Corey miller Branning says:

    oh how I wish I could have been there l could have been there last night.. Thank You Brown Bear for the pics you texted.. Can’t believe we have lost another one. In April when my baby brother was taken from us in a wreck Lane had my back and helped me allot. Now i know yall are up there together in heaven Fishin prolly. This is gonna be a tuff week with Lane being laid to rest Wed and Ants 20th bday Saturday in the very spot the Vigil took place 2night.. Yall both are greatly loved and missed bros.. RIP Lane Burnsed and Anthony Rogers…. Take care of that beautiful Angel Merf and Leave some Fish for Me! love yall both… LiL Mac

  6. PalmCoast says:

    My heart breaks for both these families…many prayers to the families and friends!

  7. The Truth says:

    Such a sad, sad story. I feel so bad for the families and friends of those involved in this tragic wreck. A similar situation happened when I was in high school, here locally. My thoughts and prayers are with this family and the friends of these two who were taken too soon. All I can suggest to those who knew them is take this time to mourn and know that better days are ahead.

  8. tulip says:

    What a heartwarming sight to see so many young people gather in peace and unity to mourn the deaths of 2 of their peers. May they all find inner peace at some point.

  9. JL says:

    These children have known too much pain and loss. This community has lost too many young people due to accidents over the last couple of years. It’s tragic. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of these two. May God reach out and provide some type of solice for those that are grieving. I can’t begin to imagine their pain. I pray that God keep our children safe and that there will be no more tragic accidents for this community. We’ve suffered enough.

  10. devin mckenna says:


    many people close to me have passed. I realize that when people so close to you die, it is hard to get over the fact that they are gone. Moreover I am aware I am not the only one who is experiencing loss within my life. So to those who are also struggling while coping with the loss of people dear to them, I wrote this to inform everyone God makes no mistakes and has a plan for those who have gone.

    “Heaven Only Knows”
    I send your family my condolences during your time of grief
    May God bless your souls,
    You may be wondering why did he have to go
    But only God and Heaven knows
    When the day comes you’ll see him at the crossroads
    But until that day
    Just know God works in mysterious ways…..

  11. Ben Dover says:

    I feel for the families , I`ve lost most of mine and many friends , but something confuses me about it , he was 18 and she was 17 , headed to a bar in Sanford , weren` t they both too young to be going where they were headed? Just seems senseless they lost their lives going all the way to a bar in another county , when they both were under the age of 21 . and believe me it makes no difference where they were going , its still a tragic lose for both families and friends, I`m just curious , do bars let underage kids in to dance but not drink?

  12. Dess says:

    Lane was always a great person to be around! I’ll never forget the experience I have had with u in my life! This is not a goodbye! It’s an see u later! Whenever u and god decide to bring me home will be the day I’ll see u again! Your a one of a kind! Miss you lane! Please look over us! Love you<3

  13. Mackenzie lane schwen. (taters lil sister) says:

    this breakes my heart. </3. my brother was supposed to be there with lane. and the thoughtvof losing him. i just cant bear.

    rip lano

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