One by one, the hands landed on shoulders, others intertwined with close by fingers. The group of more than 50 stood in silence along the side of Ocean Road, the site that bore witness to incredible tragedy just a week ago.
On the early evening of June 1, 2019, a car accident at the location took the lives of a 28-year-old Waycross mother, Jade McCray, and her 25-year old passenger, Callie Dean of Blackshear. Police say the Camaro they were in was traveling at excessive speeds and the driver was possibly impaired when it struck a Dodge Caravan, driven by Donna Lalley with her husband, Kent, of St. Simons Island.
The Lalleys remained Friday in critical condition at Savannah Memorial Hospital with the situation growing increasingly bleak, according to family members. Both the Lalleys are surrounded by their loved ones. And it was for this reason that the group had come together on a sweltering summer afternoon. They were there to pray.
Organized by St. Simons Island resident Frank Salvati, the vigil was designed to allow those who felt inclined to offer up prayers of healing for all of the families who were impacted. Salvati also purchased a large, colorful flower arrangement and the Revs. Steve Temmer of Centered for Life in Brunswick and Tony Lankford, pastor of First Baptist Church of St. Simons Island, offered consolatory words to the community members in the crowd.
Lankford, who is the Lalley’s preacher, thanked the group on the behalf of their children, Alex and Janelle.
“We’ve come alongside the family this week — the ministers and some of the people at First Baptist — so I want to express on the behalf of the family their gratefulness for your outpouring of love and support to them. It’s been deep and it’s been wide ... and it’s been meaningful to them,” Lankford told the group.
“Many of you are aware that the Lalley’s have two children, Alex and Janelle, both of them are young people — 20 and 21. They are carrying a load that would be hard for anyone of any age to carry. Alex has expressed to me and to others that the outpouring of love from you all has been helpful in this process. I’m grateful they now have other family and friends who have come down to Savannah and are spending time with them.”
Lankford said the children are asking continued prayers as they face difficult decisions about their parents’ care.
“This weekend will be a weekend of making decisions on the future care of Kent and Donna and what that may look like,” he said. “I pray alongside you that the family has wisdom and peace as they make very, very difficult decisions.”
Once Lankford concluded his remarks, Temmer stepped up to introduce Salvati who organized the prayer meeting.
“I just felt it was the righteous thing for us to do. It was a horrible, horrible thing that happened. I don’t want to lay blame on anyone or justify what happened,” Salvati said. “I do want to thank the EMTs, the fire and police ... and the state police who have done a wonderful job.”
Several first responders on hand were applauded by the crowd. Temmer went on to offer the prayer for the families as participants held on to one another, collectively bowing their heads.
During the prayer, he asked for comfort and healing for all of the families impacted by the tragedy, including relatives of the women in the Camaro.
“We understand that one of the women had a young, young son who will grow up without a mother,” he said.
Temmer also prayed for guidance for the Lalley children in the coming days.
“Lord, please grant Alex and Janelle wisdom, grace, strength and a discerning spirit to do what they need to do,” he said. “And never let them to feel guilt for doing what they had to do.”
Once the prayer ended, the group was led in a verse of the hymn “Amazing Grace.” Temmer encouraged the group to continue to pray and, if so inclined, to offer monetary or emotional support for the Lalleys.
“There is a Go Fund Me page. If you feel led by the Lord to donate to that, that would be awesome,” he said. “Advance Rehab in Brunswick and on St. Simons are also taking cards, gift cards and monetary donations for the family ... and those will get to the right place.”
Donations for the Lalleys are being accepted at Advance Rehabilitation, 4204 Coral Park Dr., Brunswick, and at 212 Retreat Village, St. Simons Island. Monetary donations, cards and gift cards are being collected to aid the family.
A GoFundMe page also has been set up for the Lalley family at https:// www.gofundme.com/lalley- family-support.