The Mitchell family of North Little Rock, Ark., likely never met Taylor Paschal-Placker. But news of her death and that of a young friend touched them greatly. "Every human's heart must be breaking at this moment in time,” the Mitchells wrote on the online guestbook for Placker on NewsOK.com. The Arkansas family was among hundreds of readers to sign online guestbooks for Placker, 13, and Skyla Whitaker, 11, two friends shot to death Sunday as they walked down a country road near Weleetka. Comments came from across the country and close to home. Many were from strangers to the family, but not strangers to heartbreak and grief. "Speaking from experience, no one should ever have to bury their child,” wrote Vickie from Eufaula. "Keep the faith and know that she has a pair of beautiful wings that she is wrapping around you all.” Denise from Thomasville, Ga., wrote that she is praying for the families. "Please know that even way down here in Georgia, Skyla and Taylor are in our hearts.” K.D. from Edmond wrote, "There are so many people right now who are holding you close to their hearts, in thoughts and prayers. Our entire community grieves with you.” Chelsea Woodard of Cocoa, Fla., posted a poem questioning why two innocent girls had to die. It ends with the refrain: "Just trust in the Lord because only God knows why.” Shiricka of Okemah left a message of hope. "I know for certain that we never lose the people we love, even to death. They continue to participate in every act, thought and decision we make. Their love leaves an indelible imprint in our memories. We find comfort in knowing that our lives have been enriched by having shared their love.”
Why the outpouring?Cindy Washington, a licensed professional counselor at Oklahoma State University, said the random, senseless nature of the deaths is difficult for even strangers to comprehend. "It makes everyone feel vulnerable. It could happen to them. It scares them.” Washington said people also want to do something. "Sending a message gives you a sense of helping in some small way.” "Just knowing that many people reached out is meaningful,” Washington said. "It's an acknowledgement of their loss. It demonstrates to this family that people care and are sharing in their sorrow.” David Knottnerus, an OSU sociology professor, said electronic media access quickly spreads news of such tragedies, which can lead to a collective outpouring of grief and outrage, human traits that serve to reinforce societal beliefs and morals.