GARDNER—Mourners came with stuffed animals, bouquets, and handmade cards, and laid them down today in front of the Elm Street school in memory of 8-year-old Colby O'Brien, killed Thursday afternoon when a large television and cart fell on him at an afterschool program.
“Just talking about it, I want to cry,” said Danielle Thebeault, 37, who left a little red Valentine’s Day puppy at the makeshift shrine. Thebeault’s 10-year-old daughter, Cheyanne, knew O’Brien and his twin sister and was badly shaken by the little boy’s death.
“She said he was a nice boy,” Danielle Thebeault said. “I told her he was up in heaven with her grandpa, grandma, and pets.”
O’Brien also had a younger brother, Thebeault said.
Elm Street School was in session today, and grief counselors were on hand to help students, parents, and members of the community in this city of 20,000 worked through the tragedy. A school official declined to comment further.
The school has 518 students in grades 3 through 5, according to its website. The extended-day program from 3 p.m.-5:30 p.m. The program offers games, crafts, indoor and outdoor play, and other supervised activities.
Some relatives arrived mid-morning to pick up their children.
Linda LaFreniere, 72, said she came after getting a call from her daughter that her 10-year-old grandson Nathan was overwhelmed.
“It’s just a really sad thing,” she said.” It’s hard to stop thinking about the family. You just don’t ever expect anything like that when you drop your kids off.”
Nathan said that when he got to school, all his classmates were talking about the little boy, whom he did not know.
“This morning I was feeling sad,” he said, standing close to his grandmother. “A sad feeling, upset.”
Candles burned at the shrine, and handwritten cards blew in the breeze.
“As you journey to heaven too soon, please watch over your family and classmates,” read one card.
Shirley Atkinson, 52, was weeping as she arrived at the memorial. She placed a teddy bear covered in hearts next to the other items.
“A tragedy like this hits the whole community,” Atkinson said.
Her grandson, she said, went to summer camp with Colby, and played sports with him. She described Colby as a playful child.
“My sympathy goes to all involved,” she said.Evan Allen can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @evanmallen.