ELKHART — Tears were shed and words of love were spoken at a ceremony in memory of a girl who died after being shot during an attempted home invasion three months ago.
Students and staff of Mary Daly Elementary, as well as family and friends, gathered Thursday afternoon outside the school to plant a tree in honor of Kristyana Jackson, 7.
Kristyana and Kimi Jackson, her mother, were walking to their home from a football game the night of Aug. 17 when they were approached by some men. As soon as Kimi saw the men advancing toward her and her daughter she screamed. John Jackson, who was in the living room with his son, ran out to see what was going on. And that’s when the suspects opened fire, shooting John in the back and shoulder and hitting Kristyana in the head. She died two days later at Memorial Hospital in South Bend.
Police continue to investigate the case, but no suspects have been arrested, nor is there any new information on the case.
Kimi and John Jackson were at the tree-planting ceremony, where they were presented the Yoshino cherry tree with white and pink flowers that friends decided to donate for Kristyana.
Teresa Kuruda, a long-time friend and client of Kimi’s at her hair salon, was the one who thought about donating the tree. Kuruda, who is also a teacher at another elementary school, talked with the principle of her school and also with Mary Daly principal Josh Nice about organizing the ceremony.
“These colors are representative of Kristyana,” said Tony Kuruda, Teresa Kuruda’s husband. “She liked those colors.”
A group of children, some of them Kristyana’s friends and classmates, gathered around the tree in a circle. Mary Daly principle Josh Nice talked about Kristyana and allowed students to speak a few words about their classmate as well.
Then the school provided some shovels children were allowed to dig a small portion of the hole. Nice said the school requested a report to make sure no cables were located are they intend to plant the tree. He said the tree will be planted soon after they receive the report.
Kimi Jackson said the school has been very supportive of her family since the incident, and they have been in continuous contact.
“They wanted to give us the tree and they want to hang a plaque of her in the library,” she said. “Her brother will go to school here so it’ll mean a lot to us if he can walk through the hall and see his sister.”
John Jackson said the community has been very supportive and that has helped the family in recovering from their loss, but the grief is still there.
“The community has been unbelievable,” he said. “I don’t know how we’d get through this (on our own).”
Looking back to the sentiment around the school when they heard about Kristyana’s death, Nice said two words came to his mind: Loss and care.
Several staff members joined the family at the vigil the day after Kristyana died. A few of them visited the family at the hospital.
“This Mary Daly family of teachers and staff just really felt for Kimi and John all the way through and we tried to stay connected,” he said.
The incident affected students at the school as well.
“We saw the loss that our students experienced and we tried to support them,” Nice said. “And kids are resilient; they’re doing well, but the loss is evident.”