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With Aching Heart, Novato Grieves Over Girl's Loss

Hundreds gather for an impromptu celebration of life and candlelight vigil one day after 12-year-old Hailey Ratliff was killed while riding her bike home from school.

Hailey Ratliff probably wouldn't have known most of the people who came to the candlelight vigil in her honor Friday evening. She and her family had only lived in Novato for about two months. Yes, lots of the kids there were fellow students at Sinaloa Middle School along with their parents. Lots of the families were from San Ramon Elementary School, where Ratliff's three little brothers go.

But out of several hundred people there, many were complete strangers. And whether the people were friends or strangers, they were rocked to the core when Ratliff was killed Thursday in a traffic accident.

All walks congregated beneath a massive oak tree on the campus of San Marin High School in an awesome display of community. The solemn meeting spot was only about 200 yards from where Hailey was struck while riding home from school.

Hailey's parents, Charles and Angela Ratliff, moved to Novato this summer and were just getting situated in a west-side subdivision as the school year got under way. Neighbors remember Hailey going door to door with her little brothers and the family microdogs — Pomeranians — to introduce themselves right after moving in.  Hailey was making new friends every day at Sinaloa and starting to enjoy seventh grade when her life came to a sudden end Thursday afternoon.

The crash investigation is ongoing, according to the Novato Police Department. But several members of the police force showed up Friday evening to pay respects at the vigil, including a few who were charged with duties no one would want just 24 hours earlier.

Pastors Joe Everly and Jerry Ghirardo presided over the impromptu service and reminded mourners to see the good in each other during their time on Earth. Just 3 1/2 years ago, Everly had said similar words at a similar service at San Marin High, one to honor the short life of Melody Osheroff. Her death in May 2009 was not only sad but angered many because a repeat DUI offender was in the saddle of a motorcycle while impaired when he struck Osheroff and her father, Aaron, as he blew past a stop sign on San Marin Drive.

Melody died of her injuries a day later, and Aaron lost one leg and nearly the other. The Osheroff family has remained in Novato, and Aaron has returned to work, meanwhile becoming the father of a boy.

Melody had been a student at nearby San Ramon School at the time of her death, and her principal at the time was Mary Pritchard. On Friday, Pritchard was at Hailey's service. Why? Because Pritchard, also a San Marin neighborhood resident, is now principal at Sinaloa Middle School. Unfortunately, she's been through this before.

How has this tragedy affected you? Could there possibly be any good to come out of it?

If you were at the candlelight vigil, you may upload your own photos and videos here, too. Just click on the "upload" button.

A fund has been created in Hailey's name at Wells Fargo Bank to support the family. 

  • Account number: 2707306573
  • Routing number: 121042882

Contact a Wells Fargo branch for more information.

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Karen Green September 29, 2012 at 05:01 PM
I hope that the family knows that so many more people than were at the vigil have been touched by Hailey. She lives in the hearts of so many of us who never even knew her. I wish her family and friends love and strength as they cope with this tragedy.
Aaron Osheroff September 29, 2012 at 06:46 PM
This hits really, really close to home. Having lost Melody 3 years ago, I know the pain of losing a child. My heart aches for the Ratliff family and I am glad to see the community support them. I was at the vigil, and so many beautiful things were said about Hailey. She obviously touched people that got to know her. I am sorry her time was cut short like this. My condolences to the family.
Lynn September 29, 2012 at 10:33 PM
I think the whole community was sadly reminded of the loss of Melody. The rest of us can only imagine... I think it's so kind of you to offer your thoughts and support to the family. To the Ratliff family, me and mine send you our deepest sympathies.
Chris and Becky Harvey September 30, 2012 at 03:02 AM
Charles and Angela, our love and prayers are with you and the boys. We are just heartbroken over the loss of Hailey. Her big beautiful eyes and smile will be with us forever. She was truley extraordianry with a heart as big as the sky. It is so wonderful seeing how she touched so many lives and how everyone who met her and those who didnt just love her. We will continue to pray that God is with you and will guide you through this tragedy. We love you and are here any time you need us.
Krista Cordova September 30, 2012 at 09:07 AM
So sad to see family of mine hurting and a little cousin I never knew. She sure was a beautiful little girl and now a beautiful angel! I heard the news from my uncle Kenny. Big hugs and prayers go out to you all! -Krista Cordova

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