HOUSTON, Mo. — The city of Houston gathered to show unity for a local family after the tragedy in Nashville.

Several religious leaders in Texas County organized a vigil to remember nine-year-old Evelyn Dieckhaus, who died in the Nashville school shooting this week. Dieckhaus’s grandparents, Joe and Cathy Richardson, live in Texas County.

“We’re a close-knit community. We do a lot of things together. The churches work together,” Pastor Bill Villapiano said. “We started planning this about 11:00 yesterday morning.”

“The tragic thing is that events like this happen in this fallen world, and this one has struck in way too close to home,” speaker Jeff McNeil said. “In these times we see the wonderful and powerful people of God come together, and that makes a community like Houston, Missouri, so special when we rally together to support one another.”

“The world lost a gift today, and we are all brokenhearted and numb. The prayers help and prayers are needed,” another speaker said.

The service also included support for the Richardsons.

“Nobody thinks when you hear about a national story that’s going to affect you locally and that’s going to affect somebody that you know,” Villapiano said.

The Richardsons were not at the Friday night service, but wrote a letter that was read aloud by Nicole Spencer.

Dear friends,

We have not had the strength to look at any news or social media, but the force of your love and concern has surpassed technology’s bounds and reached the shattered fragments of our hearts.

If we had known we could only have her nine years, we would have chosen her again and again and again.

We are so grateful and unashamedly ask that you please continue to pray. Prayers of hope and promise to Katie, Mike, Eleanor and the other five families and their loved ones.

With much love and gratitude,
Joe and Cathy Richardson

Joe and Cathy Richardson, in a letter read by Nicole Spencer at the vigil March 31.

Spencer announced, through the letter, that a wing at a Texas County library will be named the “Evelyn Dieckhaus Creative Center” and said it will feature beauty, creation and light.