It has been more than two years since the horrific explosion at Richmond Hill rocked the southside. When the smoke had cleared, two young lives were gone, countless homes were either destroyed or severely damaged, and a hurting community wanted answers.
Jennifer Longworth, a second-grade teacher at Southwest Elementary School in Greenwood, and her husband, Dion, died that night of injuries sustained when their home was demolished by the impact of the gas explosion that sent shock waves through the southside.
I remember vividly gathering with other teachers at Southwest on a solemn Sunday morning in early November 2012. It was the day after the explosion. We prayed silently. We prayed together. And we hoped for a miracle.
I was blessed to have taught with Jennifer for many years at Southwest. I remember her quick smile and long blond hair and the spring in her step as she headed to the teachers room to run off a paper or check her mailbox. She had time for everyone and was incredibly close to those she shared her day with.
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Last week, the staff of Southwest and friends of Jennifer and Dion gathered near the school’s media center to dedicate the newly built facility in Jennifer’s honor. Former fourth- and fifth-grade students of Jennifer’s stood tall and proud as they sang “Go Light Your World” to a crowd of more than 100.
Three former students spoke of the kindness Jennifer showed her pupils, the expectations she had for their performance in class, and that wooly sweater that never left the back of her chair. They reminded us all of her love for the Colts, but especially of her love for them.
Beth Guilfoy, principal of Southwest, addressed the friends and staff who had gathered at the entrance to the new media center. She spoke highly of the incredible support the school has received from the community since that horrible day. At the end of the program, Guilfoy unveiled the plaque of Longworth that is permanently mounted near the media center entrance, meant to be a reminder to all who visit Southwest of the vast love of reading Longworth passed along to her students.
To those who knew Jennifer, the kindness and friendship she so readily shared will be a part of their lives forever. I can close my eyes and picture her scurrying down the hall in everything remotely Colts. She is missed every day. But knowing future students will see Jennifer’s picture as they enter their media center helps reassure us she will never be forgotten.