AUBURN, Ala. – When morning came in Lee County, Alabama, the sun rose over a church billboard that read “GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL,” then over a ring of families gathered around a cross at a nearby school.
They gathered Tuesday at Lee Scott Academy in Auburn to pray for strength hours after learning that fourth-grade student Taylor Thornton was among the 23 people killed in Sunday's tornado.
“The mountains may roar and the valleys may roll, but God’s always in control,” parent Tracie Starr said to the sobbing crowd.
Thornton, 10, was one of 743 students at the K-12 Christian school. The school closed Monday, partly because of the loss and partly so its families could help with recovery efforts.
Head of School Stan Cox said groups spread through the community, doing what they could. In at least one case, that meant a class spent the day working to repair the home of a classmate.
Starr and fellow parent Rozi Dover hold the prayer service once a month around a cross in the school’s courtyard. Sometimes only a handful of people attend.
Tuesday, there were more than 100 attendees, including children who huddled afterward to offer each other support.
Many of them didn’t personally know Thornton or her parents. “We’re here because ... we’re family,” Starr said.
“You said wherever two or more are gathered, you’d be there with us,” Cox prayed. “Father, we’re claiming that promise.”
Then, they returned to class.
Follow Brad Harper on Twitter: @BradMGM
This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: School prays for strength after fourth-grader dies in Alabama tornado