published Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Chattanooga Valley community mourns with bereft family of Zackery Bryant

Parents, teammates and friends surrounded the family to show their support during a candlelight vigil held in memory of 6-year-old Zackery Bryant at the Rock Spring Athletic Association.
Parents, teammates and friends surrounded the family to show their support during a candlelight vigil held in memory of 6-year-old Zackery Bryant at the Rock Spring Athletic Association.
Photo by Erin O. Smith /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
  • photo
    Those who came out to a candlelight vigil held in memory of 6-year-old Zackery Bryant hold their candles at the Rock Spring Athletic Association on Saturday, April 19, 2014. Candles were handed out to guests as they entered the park.
    Photo by Erin O. Smith /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

“Lord, it amazes me that there’s faces out here that I don’t even know, yet we come together, Lord. I’m just asking you to bless this, that you’ll be glorified through this, Lord,” prayed Matt Kirby.

Tears flowed freely Saturday evening at the Rock Spring Athletic Association baseball fields on Highway 95 in Walker County, Ga. Several hundred people, including family, friends, teammates and community members, gathered at a memorial erected at home plate on Field One to pay their respects to 6-year-old Zackery Maximus Gage Bryant.

“Lord, even though we don’t understand it … you tell us in your word that you’re not the author of confusion, but of peace. And, Lord, I just ask that you give this family peace, Lord, that only you can give,” continued Kirby, whose children play in the athletic association.

Early Monday morning, Zackery got off the school bus at Chattanooga Valley Elementary School. Instead of walking into the school, he stood in front of the bus. The driver didn’t see him, and the boy was hit and killed.

Investigators said driver Joel Lee Hitchcox, 50, of Flintstone, Ga., was not at fault. The crowd prayed for him, too, and for the school employees and emergency workers who responded to the tragic accident.

“They all need our support and prayers at this time,” said Donnie Brown, the Rock Spring Athletic Association spokesman.

As pastors and friends prayed and delivered words of comfort, the association collected money and nonperishable food to help the Bryants during their mourning and in the future.

Black and yellow balloons, the colors of Zackery’s baseball team — the 5- and 6-year-old Royal Knights — were released at intervals into the sky above the packed baseball field.

“I’m sure [Zackery]’s gone out and kicked some dirt around, and every time he would do that, and every time he would chase the ball, and maybe even run the wrong way to a base, he was building a legacy,” said Allen Taylor, a coach with the athletic association and a local youth pastor.

A scholarship will be dedicated in Zackery’s name so one child can play sports free each season at the Rock Spring Athletic Association. And Chattanooga Valley Elementary plans to honor Zackery and another boy who died of an illness in November with a memorial that will be unveiled May 9.

At the end of the vigil, Zackery’s family released five white balloons to symbolize the sending of something good and pure to heaven.

Taylor prayed: “Lord, this one child, I have a feeling, has done more for this community than probably most politicians, most churches — Lord, this child has brought together unity in this community. And Lord, that is a testimony of who Zackery is.”

Contact staff writer Alex Harris at aharris@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

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