OAK BAY, B.C. – The moonlight cast a shimmering glow on the ocean as hundreds of people holding candles stood silently in the darkness to honour two young British Columbia sisters found dead on Christmas Day.
Children with candles stood close to their parents Saturday as a piano played at the Willows Beach park where the sisters often enjoyed themselves.
The District of Oak Bay organized the candlelight vigil, saying the deaths have distressed the Victoria-area community and people needed to gather in grief and love.
“We have all been shaken by this tragic event,” said Hazel Braithwaite, Oak Bay’s acting mayor, during a ceremony that included poignant reminiscences of the sisters.
Police have said they were called to a residence in Oak Bay on Monday evening where the bodies of two children were discovered.
A friend and a family member have identified the girls as Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe Berry, 6.
A memorial of flowers at the front of the tiny stage grew as people left bouquets and lit candles. The flickering candles illuminated two tiny crosses with the names Aubrey and Chloe on them.
“It’s hard to say, ‘was,’ ” said Ricky de Souza, the principal of St. Christopher’s Montessori School where Aubrey attended. “There’s a big hole in our school now.”
He said his heart has been ripped to shreds by the deaths. De Souza described Aubrey as a kind and gentle person who was the angel Gabriel in the school’s recent Christmas nativity performance.
Stuart Hall, Christ Church Cathedral School principal, said Chloe was a peacemaker at the school who was always the first person to offer help to her classmates.
“Chloe has left us all wounded,” he said.
Police have said an injured man, whose condition has not been disclosed, was found inside the home and taken to hospital.
“To all of us this means the community is holding us in their embrace,” said family friend Sandra Hudson about the vigil.
She said she knows the family well and they regularly took vacations together. “We’re all devastated.”
Hudson said the vigil gives people the opportunity to show how much the sisters were loved. The girls’ mother, Sarah Cotton, did not attend, but she knew it was being held, said Hudson.
She said gathering at Willows Beach “feels like the right place.”
Family friend Trisha Lees said the ceremony was the start of what will be a difficult grieving process.
“The girls were the type of people who need to be honoured,” Lees said. “There really are no answers.”
As the vigil came to an end, local Victoria musician Daniel Lapp emerged from the crowd and walked toward the stage playing a moving trumpet solo version of the Leonard Cohen song, Hallelujah.