(NewsNation) — In a sea of pink, hundreds of Texans gathered in Wise County, Texas, Monday night to honor the life of Athena Strand.
The 7-year-old was reportedly kidnapped and killed last week, allegedly by FedEx driver Tanner Horner. The 31-year-old confessed to authorities and disclosed where they could find her body, police said.
Wise County Judge J.D. Clark led locals in prayer during Monday night’s vigil, which Ashley Jesko attended. She was a volunteer in the ground search to find Strand, and the mother of two has been shaken by the events.
“It’s been very unnerving. Just not sure you know … just not sure how safe it is,” Jesko said, fighting back tears. “As a mom, you want to hope that those that are delivering to your house are not looking at your little ones.”
Many share her feelings that this turned Paradise, Texas, and surrounding areas into a nightmare.
“It’s taken a community that is so used to being open and letting their kids go off and do things and go out and have fun, to we’re now part of that big group and we don’t want our kids outside,” Amy Pegues said.
Strand’s tragic death is forcing tough conversations for parents who now have a heightened urge to fiercely protect their own.
Dr. Elizabeth Jeglic, who teaches psychology at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, pointed out cases like this are “statistically very rare.” She advised parents to have a continual conversation with kids and prepare them for different scenarios that do not feel right.
“Typically, with these stranger abductions, the person is riding in a vehicle … and (it’s about) teaching children not to approach, (teaching them) that adults should not be asking children for directions,” Jeglic said. “They’ll often have (kids) lean over into the car, things like that. Just having them aware of the different strategies and tactics that are used and prepare those behaviors.”