LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. — On Sunday, several vigils were held for 16-year-old Fitz Thomas who drowned on June 4 near the River Creek community.
The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office said the teen was swimming across the confluence of Goose Creek and the Potomac River when his friends said they saw him go underwater.
LCSO said the friends attempted to search for him and that he was pulled from the river after being underwater for a period of time. The teen later died at Inova Loudoun Hospital.
“I got a text rushed straight to the hospital. Within 20 minutes, hundreds of people are there. It's just ... it shook us to the core,” Christian Yohannes said.
Yohannes organized one of several vigils for Thomas on Sunday, gathering hundreds of students to Riverside High School's football field.
“Fitz was a lover of everybody. He loved everybody every race, every nationality, every person. Fitz was an awesome kid,” Thomas's mother Pastor Michelle Thomas said.
Pastor Thomas is a prominent woman in Northern Virginia and has played a key role in confronting civil rights issues as Loudoun County’s NAACP President.
“The legacy that he's leaving behind to all of us is to stay united, find a way to keep our feet off of each other's neck, find a way to love each other, find a way to do good and be good,” the pastor said to hundreds of her son’s grieving classmates.
Sunday night one of the pastor’s friends held a second vigil for the Riverside football player at the River Creek Club, not far from where officials located Thomas on Thursday.
“It's so tragic, and it's every parent's worst nightmare, so we just wanted to wrap our arms around Michelle and her family,” Sharon Huff said. “You know, as a community, just to let her know that we grieve with them.”
Hundreds of people gathered for the second vigil Sunday night, including family, friends, and Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.
“If you look around and you think about what Fitz’s life has meant not just to this community, not just to all eight and a half million people the Commonwealth of Virginia, but I think ultimately he is going to touch the world because of the impact of the man that you all have raised,” Fairfax said to the grieving family.
Fairfax told the hundreds of people at the vigil to be there for the grieving family, as he said they have been there for so many others.
“Never leave this family. Make sure that you were there for them, every single day. When we've had losses in our lives, they've always been the first ones to call to send a word of prayer to bring a meal, to be a shoulder to cry on. And so the Commonwealth of Virginia, for as much pain as we're feeling right now, will ultimately be a better place because Fitz Thomas graced us and God brought him by our way,” Fairfax said.
Hundreds of people gathered to sing, share words, and pray for the family.
“I would love for this event to not only comfort them, but to spread the message that you know we grieve, but we in the faith, believe that everything does happen according to God's purpose and that Fitz’s life serves such a great purpose, and we're going to celebrate that,” Huff said.