‘She left us so much good’: Hundreds attend vigil for slain Fairfield teacher

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FAIRFIELD, Iowa — An entire town is hurting and trying to understand the death of a beloved teacher. Police say 66-year-old Nohema Graber, a Spanish teacher at Fairfield High School, was attacked and killed by two students from the school she taught.

Classes were canceled on Friday and the Fairfield community came together for a candlelight vigil in the evening to mourn the devastating loss. People in Fairfield have struggled to find the words to understand Graber’s death, but a poster filled with dozens of handwritten messages grieving her has become the best attempt. It was a permanent marker at Friday night’s emotional ceremony.

Candlelight flooded the front lawn of Fairfield High School to honor one of its brightest lights, suddenly extinguished. “We come to you this night with hearts of sadness and sorrow,” said Nick Adam, a pastor at St. Mary Catholic Church in Fairfield.

Graber’s death has become a collective point of pain for the small city. But fellow Fairfield High School teacher Fred Hucke hopes they remember the joy first. “She left us so much good. Those are the images I’d like you to be talking about over hot chocolate,” said Hucke.

Graber left a lasting mark upon her students, as evidenced by the heartfelt notes on a canvas of grief at the vigil. Her death carried an extra-large emotional weight for Fairfield High School student Briseyda Jimenez, who leaned on her teacher after her brother’s sudden death. “It just breaks my family’s heart. I’m just so thankful she was part of us,” said Jimenez.

All of Fairfield became family Friday night, bonded by the teacher, devout Catholic and positive influence that now lives on in spirit. “We come to you in the darkness, and yet we hold in our hands a candle representing light,” said Adam.

Graber’s light will shine here long after the last candle blows out. “You have joyful stories to tell, and those are things you will never forget she gave you,” said Hucke.

There is also a growing memorial for Graber at the Fairfield Public Library. Additionally, friends have created a GoFundMe page to help Graber’s family. The account is already $3,000 above the $25,000 goal.

So far, police have only said that 16-year-old Jeremy Goodale and 16-year old Willard Miller plotted the murder using social media. Police have not released any information about a motive. Both boys are charged as adults with first-degree murder. They are each being held on $1 million bond and will appear in court for a preliminary hearing next Friday.

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