Community waits for answers in death of Potsdam boy
Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 9:17 am

POTSDAM – Students and community members gathered at A.A. Kingston Middle School last night to remember 12-year-old Garrett Phillips, who died Monday under unknown circumstances, apparently alone in his Market Street apartment.

The community waits for answers in the case. Reports that the boy might have been beaten were thrown into doubt when witnesses said there were no marks to indicate that.

Potsdam Police Chief Ed Tischler said yesterday that the cause of death remains unknown. Authorities are to hold another press conference today.

Courtney Johnson-Woods was at last night’s vigil and gave us this account:

More than 240 students, parents, community members, teachers and Potsdam school staff came together at a candlelight tonight at the AAK Middle School in support of the family of Garrett Phillips, the 12-year-old boy whose death is still under investigation.

“We have no speakers planned. We have nothing formal. What we are here to do is to hug one another, to hug our children to come together as neighbors and a community to remember Garrett’s family tonight as we wait for news that will help them find closure and begin the healing process,” said one of the parents who helped organize the impromptu event. “And if you visit the Facebook Page that was started in remembrance of Garrett, you will see that there are candles burning tonight in St. Regis Falls, and in Norwood, in Massena and Ogdensburg, all across the North Country and throughout the state. And there are candles burning in North Carolina and as far as Florida and even California, all in support of our community as we come together at this sad time,” she added.

AAK Middle School Principal Jamie Cruikshank, who was in attendance in an unofficial role as a parent of two children in the district who lost a classmate and friend, spoke of what he said was a testimony to the kindness and support he witnessed in the school throughout the day. “I saw students holding up other students, teachers holding up young people in need, and at times, I saw students holding up teachers. And if we can continue this display of caring and kindness toward one another every day, that will say a lot about who we are as a community,” he said.

Another parent commended the school for providing a haven for her daughter, a place in which she knew she would be safe, cared for and attended to as she struggled, along side others, to have answers to the questions every one shares regarding this tragic loss of a wonderful young man.

The evening included a number of stories about Garrett shared by friends — many of them depicting his fun-loving nature, his beautiful smile, and his appreciation of a good practical joke. Students sang a number of songs in tribute to him and candles were raised as the night concluded, with hopes that the next few days will bring some closure to the case, and an opportunity for his family and the community to begin mourning and healing.