Fedorko’s memory honored at Teen Center vigil, dance

The candlelight vigil brought out people of all ages to remember the life of 16-year-old Emily Fedorko. –John Ferris Robben

The candlelight vigil brought out people of all ages to remember the life of 16-year-old Emily Fedorko. –John Ferris Robben

Last weekend the family and friends of Emily Fedorko gathered to share a candlelight vigil at the edge of Greenwich Harbor in a moment of shared remembrance.

The vigil proceeded the Greenwich Teen Center’s first dance of the school year, the proceeds of which were to be donated to the Emily Catherine Foundation. Emily, who would have been a junior at Greenwich High School this year, lost her life in a tragic boating accident on the Long Island Sound Aug. 6. The accident, which also involved three of her longtime friends and fellow GHS students, was devastating for the community and her loss was emotionally recalled at the event.

“When the day happened it was really hard for everyone. It brought a lot of distress, and a month and a half we’re still broken, there’s a piece missing,” Daniela Ruiz, one of Emily’s fellow class of 2016 members, said shortly before the vigil. “As a class and school it’s really brought us closer together. Seeing her close friends at school, you can still see the pain they’re going through. It just brought the society closer and makes you realize that any day could be your last day.

Though Emily’s sudden passing led to an outpouring of support for the Fedorko family last month, the vigil and dance gave teens and adults who had been away during the summer months another opportunity to share their feelings.

While some of them were there, the Fedorko family chose not to address the crowd directly. Rather, Teen Center Executive Director Kyle Silver read a statement on behalf of the family to those in attendance.

“Our family can not thank the community enough for your ongoing support,” the statement read. “Everyone from close friends to strangers seem to have been touched by Emily’s life. She would be overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from you. We appreciate all of you for helping keep her spirit alive.”

Mr. Silver said Emily was a frequent participant in the center’s weekend dances, and embraced friends and strangers alike in the open social space. As the vigil began, he shared a story from Emily’s first year of high school. As a freshman at GHS, Emily hid behind one of the pillars at the school as a security guard passed by. As the guard approached she leapt out and yelled “boo,” earning herself the nickname Emily Boo.

Mr. Silver said that the moment was just one example of how Emily’s presence was impactful.

“All high school dances are charity events, and when our student board realized that the foundation had been started for her, there was no other choice but to have the first event be dedicated to her,” Mr. Silver said.

“There were no strangers in her life. She was somebody that inspired you to realize that life is precious, and she lived that message,” he added. “Doing this is a way to keep up that mindset and to remind her friends that every second of life is precious.”

Brett Steinberg, a University of Connecticut sophomore and former classmate of Emily’s, was asked to perform Angels Among Us by Alabama as a part of the vigil, and recalled the brief time he spent with her. As a senior at GHS, Mr. Steinberg had just a single “On Stage” course with Emily while she was still a freshman, but he remembered the positive light and energy she brought every day.

“She was a ray of sunshine. Every time she went into class she was very happy, just a joyful person, and she’ll be missed by a lot of people,” Mr. Steinberg said. “I could see just from that class that she touched a lot of people with the joy she brought to life. She definitely won’t be forgotten and I think this is an amazing event to honor her life.”

As Mr. Steinberg performed, the candlelight spread from person to person until dozens of flicking flames illuminated the harbor plaza. Even after the song concluded the crowd maintained a stoic silence for some time, allowing for personal moments of reflection. As the vigil ended, some of the youths formed a circle to hold their candles high one last time for Emily.

The quiet, somber moment would eventually give way to a fun, uplifting celebration for her and the community during the dance. While the tragic events of the summer cannot be forgotten, Emily’s strong, joyful spirit will continue to resonate with Greenwich and its residents for seasons to come.

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