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?
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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.