Lifting each other up: Carter County community holds vigil after tragedy strikes three local families
Community members from Lone Grove and across Carter County silently bowed their heads in prayer Thursday night as the light of candles flickered in the wind, illuminating across the solemn faces in the crowd.
More than 100 people gathered at Sullivan Park in Lone Grove to remember the life of Konner Miller and pray for three local children still fighting for their lives. Two-year-old Konner Miller passed away on Aug. 29 after falling into a swimming pool.
His twin brother, Kayden Miller, survived the accident but is continuing to fight for his life at the OU Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City. “The Miller family is a local Lone Grove family, so immediately when we saw the tragedy that had occurred here in Lone Grove we wanted to reach out and do something,” said Danielle Neble, who helped organize the candlelight vigil.
As the community came together to support the Miller family, many learned of two other Carter County families experiencing a similar type of heartbreak and the community embraced them in their prayers as well.
On July 18, Jasper Artigue had an accident similar to the Miller children’s, where he fell into a pool and nearly drowned. He spent around a month in the OU Children’s Hospital intensive care unit and is now recovering at a rehabilitation center in Bethany.
Barrett McReynolds was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, a condition that causes inflammation in the walls of some blood vessels in the body, on Aug. 31. The disease caused damage to McReynolds’ main heart muscle and he is currently still battling the disease in the hospital.
“It’s amazing how you find out that there’s others out there that feel the same hurt and you find out that there’s more than just you. We’re all here together now to pray and to live in this awareness and pray for a miracle for our three survivors,” said Jeremy Surratt, a local pastor who led the prayer Thursday night.
Some wrote prayers on post-it notes and others prayed over three blankets representing each child, but the whole community grabbed hands to pray for the children's healing. Lone Grove football players also passed around buckets to the crowd to collect donations for the families.
As the sky grew darker, green balloons and balloons in the shape of hearts were passed to nearly every person at the park. The individuals in the crowd simultaneously released the balloons in honor of Konner Miller and watched as they disappeared into the sky.
“All of these families need us to lift them up and that’s what we do here, that’s what we do in southern Oklahoma, we love each other,” Neble said, calling the large crowd "amazing" and a "godsend."
The vigil closed out with the sound of “Amazing Grace” ringing across the park. As the anthem played, several community members shed a tear for the loss of one of their own and the hurt of the families and their children who are still struggling to survive.
“When you live in a community like Lone Grove, Oklahoma, everybody’s family and everybody gets together and everybody feels everybody else’s pain when something like this happens,” Surratt said. “We can’t pray enough for the loss and we can’t pray enough for the ones that are still fighting. They have a long road ahead of them.”
Donations collected during the vigil will be divided among the families. The families also have GoFundMe fundraisers set up online to help cover the costs of medical expenses and treatment.
Funeral services for Konner Miller are scheduled for 10 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 7 at New Hope Free Will Baptist Church, 9003 East Prairie Valley Road, in Lone Grove.