Christina Grimmie’s brother, Marcus, was overcome with emotion as hundreds of mourners gathered at a candlelight vigil honoring her memory in Evesham, New Jersey Monday night (June 13).
“Christina was awesome…She loved this town, she loved this state, she loved singing, she loved the Lord and she loved me and she was just my baby sister,” he said.
Several speakers — including Mayor Randy Brown, close friends, and pastors — shared remembrances of The Voice contestant’s love of her family, friends and faith at the half-hour vigil, which took place at the Marlton Memorial Sports Complex. Many wore “Team Grimmie” shirts designed just for the event, and there was so many people in attendance there weren’t enough candles.
As he spoke of his sister, Marcus took a moment to offer condolences to the victims of the massacre at Pulse nightclub, which took the lives of 49 and wounded another 53.
“About four miles away from where we were staying, there was a huge tragedy to Orlando, to the U.S. to the LGBT community and to the whole world,” he said. “I mean, 50 people dead, who knows who is injured. And I come home to this… I have no words. All of those people that died and are suffering. My heart goes out.”
He continued to express gratitude to Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine, who coached Grimmie while she competed on the third season of The Voice, for offering to pay for his sister’s funeral, and to the band Twenty One Pilots and singer Selena Gomez for paying tribute to her in concert.
He said he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from the hometown and entertainment community, while the victims of the mass shooting do not have similar support systems.
“These people didn’t have that and we are blessed to,” he said. “She’s in a better place. Thank you to everyone once again. I wish I could elaborate more, you guys didn’t know her like I did, so thank you. This is awesome.”
In addition to Marcus’ speech, best friends Pete Innaurato, Lauren Longo and Sarah Luebkemann shared memories of Grimmie, who put her “family, friends, and the Lord” ahead of everything else. They spoke of how much Grimmie loved entertaining senior citizens, and gathered a group to go Christmas caroling to spread cheer. One woman loved her voice so much, she asked Grimmie to sing Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” — and practically invited the teens to stay all night at her house.
Most poignant was a story told by Longo and Luebkemann as they spoke of visiting their friend during “Hometown Week” on The Voice. Grimmie performed “Some Nights” by the band, fun., but had originally planned to do “This is Home” by Switchfoot.
The song, which Luebkemann said was a special one that had a lot of meaning for the trio, is especially meaningful now, she said, as she read the lyrics: “This is home/ now I’m finally where I belong/ where I belong/yeah, this is home/ I’ve been searching for a place of my own/ now I’ve found it/maybe this is home.”
After the speeches, mourners bowed their head as a bagpiper solemnly performed “Amazing Grace.” The lights were switched off on the field and the crowd bowed their heads in silence as the candles illuminated the night in tribute.
Afterwards, mourners embraced in tears, leaving notes and flowers at the foot of two enlarged photos of the 22-year-old on the field.
Sixteen-year-old Hannah Hyland of Audubon and 13-year old Brianna Hunt of Hound Heights, NJ shared memories of Christina will Billboard.
“She would definitely lighten up the mood, any day,” said Hyland, who met the singer when she was just a six-year-old first grader. “She was such a positive person.”
“If you were every upset she would be the one to come up, give you a hug,” says Hunt.
“We rode the bus with her to school, to and from,” says Hyland, who said Grimmie would make the trip fun. “She would do our makeup, fun stuff. She would always give us lip gloss, blush, something small.”
Heather Oriold of Marlton didn’t know the singer personally, but tells Billboard she became a fan after discovering her videos on YouTube.
“She came back to Cherokee right before The Voice and I got to talk to her a lot and she was just so sweet,” she says. “She made it a point to talk to everyone there for as long as they wanted. Overall genuine person. I am here for the support.”
Taylor Coigne of Marlton tells Billboard she met Grimmie in 7th grade, and the two shared a bond as musicians, “encouraging each other with our music.”
“Tonight was absolutely heartbreaking,” Coigne said of the vigil.
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