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'Thank you for being my second grade teacher'

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Nearly 100 people bowed their heads and stood in silence at Southwest Elementary School in Greenwood to begin mourning a second-grade teacher who is believed to have died in the southside explosion.

The only sounds were the soft weeps coming from the group. Small children clasped their parents' hands, and adults embraced each other thinking about their fallen friend, co-worker and mentor, Jennifer Longworth.

One student wrote "Thank you for being my second grade teacher" on a card.

Former students said the woman helped them through difficult lessons, always had their best interests in mind and made a difference in their education and growth.

A community in pain gathered Sunday night to mourn one of their own. Friends and fellow teachers, as well as past and current students, met in the courtyard of Southwest Elementary School to celebrate Longworth's life. 

The second-grade teacher and her husband, John Dion Longworth, were believed to be killed late Saturday night by an explosion in their southside neighborhood.

Investigators have not released the names of the deceased or injured, but the blast demolished the Longworth home and they haven't been heard from.

Eighty homes were damaged in all.

Flowers, candles and stuffed animals surrounded the base of the flagpole. Notes and cards had been taped to the post to keep them from blowing away.

A piece of poster board had been set up near the building, where mourners were encouraged to write their thoughts to Longworth. Some signed "We love you," while others jotted down prayers.

One person thanked her for being such a great teacher.

"They always talk about the 'Southwest family.' It's a small group, and everyone knows who you are," said Amy Watson, whose daughter was in Longworth's class. "It's a horrible tragedy."

See Monday's Daily Journal for more about the vigil.

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