Classmates of slain toddler say goodbye

Classmates of slain toddler say goodbye
BLACK DIAMOND, Wash. -- More than a week has passed since six members of the Anderson family were found murdered inside a Carnation home.

On Wednesday night, hundreds gathered some 30 miles away from the tragedy-stricken community in the town of Black Diamond, where people's sadness over the deaths was almost as palpable as those who were present at the crime scene.

The mourners met at Black Diamond Elementary School, the school of the 5-year-old victim Olivia Anderson. Wednesday would have been the little girl's first day back to school after a break for the holidays, but school resumed without her.

But it was no ordinary school day. Instead, students lit candles as teachers prayed and parents clutched their children, wondering 'why?'

And after the sun set, time came to remember Olivia and say goodbye.

As they bid the little ones farewell, the crowd released a single white balloon into the night sky, as if hoping to release some of the heavy emotions that have been burdening their hearts.

By now, most of the children know what happened to their friend, her 3-year-old brother, her parents and grandparents. Three generations of one family were shot to death on Christmas Eve.

The senseless tragedy, which has left even grownups grappling for answers, is a vivid nightmare for children.

"How can I explain something I couldn't even start to understand myself? I can't explain," said Heather Invie-Notch, whose daughter Savannah was a friend of Olivia's.

Last week police arrested Michelle Anderson, Olivia's aunt, and her boyfriend Joseph McEnroe. Police believe the pair's bitter feelings over a family dispute involving money triggered them to kill the victims.

On Wednesday night, the Black Diamond community said they may be able to forgive one day, but they will never forget, as children so young should not have had to know about a thing so terrible as murder.