JEFFERSON, La.-- One by one, they each stood to read a letter to someone they had never met.
Just as funerals for some of the Newtown shooting victims took place on Saturday, two dozen students and several teachers honored them before a gathered crowd at Riverdale Middle School in Jefferson.
"Like everybody else, we sat numb and didn't know what to do," said Riverdale teacher Jeanne Futch.
Futch said she wrote her letter to Sandy Hook Elementary teacher Anne Marie Murphy, who died in the shooting, while holding one of her students.
"She's the one that cradled Dylan Hockley and I get it. I get it," Futch said. "I started out in Pre-K and it's an instant love and it builds as the year goes on. And we're talking middle of the year-- she loved that boy and I understand it entirely."
The memorial's organizers said it was students who came up with the idea to read the letters addressed to each one of the victims: children relating to other children who are now gone.
"All those faces of the kids, it's so sad and you see all these children that died and they remind you of people-- close friends and relatives and you're horrified because they never got to grow up," said Riverdale student Jordan Long.
When all were read, they attached the letters to balloons, before releasing them.
"This says a lot about them as students and their character and what's in their heart," said Riverdale Middle School Principal Randy Bennett.
They also planted a weeping willow on the school field, as a place to reflect on what happened. It is a tree that will grow older, serving as a reminder of those who didn't get the same chance.
"I want them to notice that we have issues in the world," said Alexis Fairley, an eighth grader at Riverdale. "And we have to all come together and make it a better place and a safer place."
The school plans to install a plaque at the newly-planted weeping willow, as a permanent memorial to the Newtown victims.