BENNINGTON — A large group of family members and friends of the late Emily Hamann gathered Tuesday afternoon to remember her — releasing balloons near the spot off the Walloomsac Pathway where she was fatally attacked in January.
Tuesday was Hamann’s birthday, said her mother, Kelly Carroll.
Following remarks by Angela Emerson, the interim pastor of St. Peters Church, those gathered released balloons to watch them rise skyward over the nearby trees. While there was occasional light drizzle Tuesday, heavier rainfall held off until after the release.
People shouted, “Happy Birthday, Emily!” as the colorful balloons floated up and away.
Tuesday also was the birthday of Hamann’s twin sister, Olivia, her mother said, and of another member of the extended family.
Hamann was 26 when she died after being attacked near the walking path between North and School streets on the morning of Jan. 18.
Darren Pronto, 32, was arrested and is facing a charge of first-degree murder in Hamann’s death in Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division.
Pronto has been held at Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield since his arrest shortly after the attack.
Emerson said the young woman’s death seemed to disrupt the natural order and flow we expect of life, in which people are born, mature and finally age toward death — as do trees, animals and all living things.
Humans can derive “some degree of comfort” when life unfolds in the normal way, she said, but “there is nothing more devastating than the loss of the life of a young person.”
The gathering on Emily’s birthday was meant to mourn and honor her, Emerson said, but also in part to “take comfort from each other, knowing we are not going through this alone,” and “that the future can hold more promise for all of us, more good things.”
Carroll said afterward that, in addition to a small memorial of flowers and candles that has been maintained near the pathway since Emily’s death, a tree was recently planted by the town and will soon have a plaque honoring her.
A number of volunteers also will assist the town in refurbishing 10 town benches placed along the riverside walkway, she said, helping to bring them into Americans with Disabilities Act compliance and replacing worn seats and backs.
There will be work parties to help with that project, Carroll said, with the town supplying the materials.
Five of the ten benches will be done first, then five more after those are completed, she said, and the hope is that work can begin in August.
“This is Emily’s legacy, reworking these benches,” her mother said.
Carroll said a ceremony will be held to dedicate the plaque to Emily after it is installed on the tree.