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Funerals begin in Nashville school shooting, as 9-year-old is mourned

The memorial for the Covenant School shooting victims, from left to right: Mike Hill, Evelyn Dieckhaus, Katherine Koonce, William Kinney, Hallie Scruggs and Cynthia Peak, (Johnnie Izquierdo for The Washington Post/for The Washington Post)
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NASHVILLE — “I’m sorry for what you had to go through this week,” Senior Minister Clay Stauffer told the Covenant School’s students. “It’s not fair.”

The children had gathered, along with hundreds of others, at Woodmont Christian Church in Nashville to honor Evelyn Marie Dieckhaus. Evelyn, 9, died Monday morning when a shooter opened fire at her private elementary school. Five other people were also killed, including a custodian, a substitute teacher and the school principal.

Friday’s funeral was standing room only as the community came out to mourn. Metropolitan Nashville Police Department officers sat together in one pew; ushers asked people to give up their seats for Covenant School students.

Stauffer wore a pink jacket, a tribute to Evelyn’s love of color. Before the service, girls in white cotton dresses with pink waist ribbons handed out stuffed animals to her classmates. Younger girls handed out tissue packets tied with pink bows. The service included songs sung by country music artists Vince Gill, Lady A (formerly Lady Antebellum), Natalie Hemby and Lauren Lucas.

Evelyn was a third-grader at the Covenant School. In her obituary, published in the Tennessean, she was remembered for her “sparkly soul” and “unmistakable warmth.” She loved crafting and animals, it said, including her two dogs and prized collection of stuffed animal tigers (all named Tony). She was hoping to get a rat for her 10th birthday, and she composed songs on her piano.

“As she learned to walk, Evelyn could be spotted pushing a stroller overflowing with baby dolls, with at least a few more strapped to the front and back of her tiny body,” the obituary said. “She loved well and was easy to love.”

Funerals will continue this coming week for the other victims killed in the shooting at the Covenant School, attached to Covenant Presbyterian Church in the affluent Green Hills suburb.

Hallie Scruggs’s family planned a private funeral for their daughter on Saturday at Covenant Presbyterian Church, where her father is the lead pastor. The funeral for Mike Hill, the school custodian, is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday at Stephens Valley Church in Nashville, with visitation beginning at 10 a.m., Pastor Jim Bachmann said.

A visitation for Katherine Koonce, head of the school, is scheduled for Tuesday from 5 to 8 p.m. at Christ Presbyterian Church, with a service the following day at 1 p.m. The service for 9-year-old William Kinney is set for 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Christ Presbyterian Church.

Visitation for Cynthia Peak, the school’s 61-year-old substitute teacher, is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday followed by a funeral at noon at Christ Presbyterian Church.