FRANKLIN -- Hundreds of emotional residents gathered on the town common Friday night to remember two children whose lives ended tragically this week and to support their “devastated” parents.
A candlelight vigil was held on the common to commemorate Lexi and Sean Monroe, the Franklin children who died Sunday when they became trapped in a hope chest that would not open from the inside.
Local clergymen also led a prayer service for the siblings, as part of the vigil, from a gazebo lined with white lights as community members and the Monroe family looked on.
Sean, 7, and Lexi, 8, were playing hide-and-seek Sunday when they became trapped in the chest. The piece was part of a 1996 recall of 12 million of its kind made by Lane Furniture of Virginia after reports of at least six children suffocating inside.
“It goes without saying that they are devastated,” police Lieutenant Mark Manocchio said about the Monroe family. “It’s been very, very hard, but they’re doing the best they can.”
The parents, siblings, and extended family of the Monroe children were driven to the vigil on a bus owned by a family friend. They requested privacy from the media while they mourned.
Christine Cossette and Jenn Gouthro, of Franklin, used social media to organize the event. Neither of the women knew the family personally, but said they were so heartbroken over the tragedy that they wanted to show them support.
“We never thought the family would actually attend, but they reached out to us through the event’s website to let us know they would be coming -- and they were very appreciative,” Cossette said.
During the vigil, Gouthro invited schoolmates of Lexi and Sean to release pink and blue balloons into the sky in their honor.
Sean Bernard, of Attleboro, came with his 14-year-old son Eric.
“When we lived in Franklin [Eric] went to school with one of their older sisters, Eva,” Bernard said. “It was really nice to see the whole community come together like this.”
Robyn Hickey, of Franklin, said that the much of the town is mourning for the Monroe family in the wake of this “indescribable tragedy.”
“I wanted to pay tribute to the children,” she said. “Franklin is a large town, but a very tight-knit community.”
At the end of the ceremony, the Monroe family was presented with two paper lanterns that they released into the sky. Many in the crowd wept as they watched the lanterns drift out of sight.
A funeral service will be held for the children on Monday at 10 a.m.
Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.