A candlelight prayer vigil at "Ed Thomas Field" in Parkersburg last night drew more than 2,500 people to honor the slain coach’s memory. Pastor Harlan DeJung, of the First Reformed Church of Aplington, led off the service.
"On many other occasions Ed Thomas drew us together to cheer on the Falcons and the football games, the track meets and other sporting events. And tonight Ed Thomas draws us together one more time. He draws us here because he has touched our lives. He was more than a coach, he was a friend. A friend that was a good friend to all of us," De Jung said.
DeJung says they start where he thinks Thomas would want them to start, with prayer and by listening to God speak to them with his word.
Pastor Ryan Pietet of First Baptist Church in Parkersburg, also opened with a prayer. "Lord, families and individuals were changed forever this morning and questions are being asked, and please hear them and answer them at the appropriate time," Pietet says,
"emotions of anger and frustration are high and completely understood. Yet we as your body, your beloved people, may we come to a point where we are able to work through those emotions with your counsel and care. Let us process those emotions and reach a point in our life that we can forgive."
Father Dennis Quinn of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Parkersburg quoted from one of the late coach’s speeches: "Coach Thomas once said,’I’ve always said my job is not to prepare our kids to be college athletes. My job is to make football a learning experience and there are so many things they can learn from being part of our team, the body, that will help them be successful later in life as a father, member of a church or member of a community.
I talk about the responsibility of being a leader and the idea of being a servant and a giver. I talk about standing up to do what is right when nobody else will, and letting other players know when they are doing something wrong. I always explain the importance of being a role model, that leaders have to set the tone so others will follow.I talk about the respect that they have to gain with other young people. I tell them that everyone might not always like you but you should act in a way that they respect you’."
Some traveled dozens of miles to the event, including the entire Denver High School football team. Denver High football player Wesley Homeister says it was important to put aside the competition between the schools and show respect.
Like many others he says he’s still in shock. "Why would anyone ever want to do this to him. I’d always heard he was a great person, really nice to everyone, anyone who asked for help, he would give it. So I don’t see why anyone would anyone would want to do that," Homeister said.