Columbus North High School students lined 25th Street during a motorcade including a hearse carrying the casket of Columbus Sgt. Jonathon Hunter, many of them clutching American flags.
Sophomore Sean Mustard was among more than 300 who withstood the rain to pay their respects. Mustard said Hunter was a former neighbor, and their fathers were best friends.
Mustard, who said he plans to attend Hunter’s funeral Saturday at Columbus East High School, said he will most remember his friend’s sense of humor and how well he treated others.
Junior Chloe Snyder was among four people who held up a large American flag as they watched the procession pass, paying their respects for Hunter, a 2011 graduate of Columbus East.
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Sophomore Steven McKittrick, standing nearby, saluted the hearse and the motorcycles — 210 in all — as they went by.
McKittrick said it was important for him to come out and join his fellow students, demonstrating their respect for Hunter and others like him who gave their lives for their country.
“They died so we can live. They stay up all night so we can sleep at night,” McKittrick said. “They risk their lives out on the front lines so we don’t have to.”
He also pointed to unity among students, faculty and staff who gathered outside in the rain to show their support.
“This school shows respect for fallen soldiers,” McKittrick said.
Principal David Clark said when he learned the funeral procession would pass by the school, he wanted to do something.
“I immediately thought we need to allow our kids to witness this opportunity,” Clark said. “It’s a great showing out here in the rain.”
Clark also spoke collectively about the individuals who gathered outside the school, adding that it didn’t matter what their political beliefs might be.
“It means we are a community,” Clark said.
Adults living near the high school joined students along 25th Street in paying their respects.
Although she didn’t know Hunter personally, “the man who passed away protected everything I have,” said Tina Fox, who lives on Gilmore Street.
“My prayers and blessings to the family,” she said.
Fox was joined by her neighbor, Sandy Dooley, who also said it was important for her to be in attendance and to let Hunter’s family know that people in Columbus care for them.
“I respect that he was willing to give his life for my freedom,” Dooley said.
Dooley also said she appreciated the hundreds of motorcyclists who came to escort Hunter’s body.
“I think that’s wonderful,” she said. “That gave me a thrill to know they were going out there to escort him.”