FLORA, Ind. -- Six benches for six little girls.
Tonight, one of two major efforts to remember the children killed in Carroll County during the last year is now finalized.
A local Girl Scout troop initially planned to create one bench of recycled bottle caps for a project.
But then four sisters—Kionnie Welch, Kerriele McDonald, Keyara Phillips and Keyana Davis—were killed in a Flora house fire investigators say someone intentionally set.
“When the girls died in the house fire, we decided to make four benches,” said Raylee Barnard, one of the three cadets who worked on the project.
And then two others, Liberty German and Abigail Williams, were murdered while walking on a Delphi trail just months later.
“A lot of people will miss them and this will be a great way to remember them,” said Barnard of the six benches they ended up getting made. “When I saw the plaques, I wanted to start crying.”
Tears did fall from Barnard’s eyes as the troop leaders explained the project to the crowd and how much community support went into making it happen. She wasn’t alone in being overcome with emotion.
“It was hard for me, coming into the school, but as I walked into the courtyard, I felt a little different,” said Gaylin Rose, the mother whose children died in the fire. Rose hadn’t been back to the school since her daughters’ deaths.
She found it hard to be in a place that reminded her so much of her kids.
And yet as she walked in to the ceremony, she immediately embraced the emotional Girl Scouts and friends of her daughters who worked for months to make the benches a reality.
“It felt really good to show them love because they put so much love and dedication into those benches for my babies,” said Rose. “I know how much they miss my babies.”
At the high school next door, a similar project sadly also inspired by the tragedies, is still under construction.
Carroll County high school art teacher Branden Apitz had pieces of limestone for nearly two years that he hadn’t figured out what to do with. When the girls in Flora died, he knew he wanted to do something to honor them.
“My daughters went to school with them and they would talk about how they’re going to miss doing their secret handshakes,” said Apitz.
A limestone bench, weighing thousands of pounds, that Apitz hopes will memorialize the Delphi girls and Rose’s daughters, in front of a mural just steps from where the sisters died.
Carved by more than a hundred hands, Apitz hopes his bench will provide healing and comfort to a county still grieving.
“All we want is a place for people to look west, contemplate how much life they have to live and think about what they’re resting their backs against, which will be these names,” said Apitz.
Apitz is still looking for help moving and installing the different pieces of the bench, which each weigh thousands each.