Nothing can compensate a mother for the loss of her children, but West Sacramento residents turned out Thursday evening to show their support and let Mai Hodges know she was not alone in her grief.
An estimated 300 people gathered in the parking lot of Southport Elementary School to remember three young children, two of them students at the school, who were found dead in their home Wednesday night.
Their father, Robert Hodges, was arrested on suspicion of homicide and domestic violence. He allegedly had attacked the children’s mother, Mai Hodges, who called police and went outside, only to return to the apartment to find her children had been suffocated.
Photos of the three Hodges youngsters – 11-year-old Kelvin, 9-year-old Julie and 7-month-old Lucas – were set against the campus’s “Welcome to Southport Elementary School” sign, where a memorial had been created with balloons, teddy bears and votive candles. Wreathes for each of the children were fastened to a nearby fence.
Michelle Hall, a member of the school’s parent-teacher group, was passing out blue and pink ribbons for people to tie onto the chain-link fence in memory of Kelvin and Julie, who were students at the school. Hall said she had been at the school all day supporting students and staff members and preparing for the vigil. Her son, she said, was in Julie’s fourth-grade class.
Tiffanie Perez said this is her daughter’s first year at Southport, and she didn’t know the Hodges children. She came to the vigil, she said, because “ I want to be supportive.”
Community support and unity were the themes of those who spoke.
“No words can make sense of this tragic event,” Loren Zamora, pastor of Project Church, told the crowd. People in the community must help each other come to terms with what happened, he said.
Micah Moreno, pastor of Southport Church, said his daughter attends Southport Elementary School. Although such tragedies are difficult to comprehend, he assured the community that there is hope.
Mai Vang, a member of the Sacramento City Unified School District board of trustees, thanked the West Sacramento community for the show of support, noting the presence of City Council members and school district officials, as well as the contingent of police officers who helped direct traffic.
Mai Menzies, said she was speaking on behalf of members of Mai Hodges’ family who attended the vigil. Mai Hodges was unable to be there, Menzies said, noting that she is going through great turmoil, but Hodges wished to convey her gratitude for the community’s support.
“You are the light that shines in this family,” Menzies told the crowd.
“We are family, we are a community, we are a tribe,” she said. “I couldn’t be prouder than I am now to say that you are my family.”