Amidst the songs, speakers and sniffles from students, the Southside Middle School family paid tribute to a man whose life was cut short.
Principal Alan Thompson died in a car crash Saturday evening, leaving a school in shock just days before starting second semester.
"I didn't know what to say when I first heard about it."
8th grade students Drew Griggs, Hope Smith and Gracie Miller say while they didn't know him for long, they know enough about what kind of person he was.
"He'd try and talk to you every time he saw you. And how he always acted so caring," says Hope Smith.
"He was always happy and he never looked sad," adds Griggs.
Thompson's family and friends joined the memorial service.
His two sons are part of the Tallassee school system. One is a student at Southside. They listened as men and women spoke highly of their father.
Some students say the reality of Thompson's death is just now sinking in to them.
"Just made it seem real when we came to school that everybody was here and he wasn't," says Gracie Miller.
It wasn't just the person students say Thompson was that affected them, it's how he made them feel, too.
"He always tried to make us better and you could tell he cared about us and loved us even if he didn't know us personally, he loved us," adds Miller.
Administrators urged students to take that spirit into their everyday lives allowing Thompson's short time at Southside to leave a long lasting legacy.
"Try and be more caring and nice," adds Smith.
"Enjoy the little things and be happy," says Miller.
Students will spend the next week writing messages to Mr. Thompson and his family as a way to release their feelings. The messages will be displayed on a wall in the cafeteria and later given to the family.
In lieu of flowers school administrators set up a fund in Mr. Thompson's honor. To donate, please contact Southside Middle School.
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