THE scene would normally be a sea of black – but not on this day. As they prepared to say goodbye to 12-year-old Keane Wallis-Bennett – killed on April 1 when a modesty wall at Liberton High collapsed onto her – the schoolgirl’s family and friends were determined to turn grief into a colourful celebration.
Where mourners would traditionally have worn sombre shades, youngsters walking towards Mortonhall Crematorium’s main chapel yesterday morning sported exuberant tiger print, polka dot and love-heart onesies.
Others made their way in bright pink hoodies, emblazoned with pictures of the popular Liberton High pupil and bearing the simple message: “Love you millions.”
Among tributes laid out for the tragic youngster were flowers from One Direction – the youngster’s favourite band and one she was looking forward to seeing live over the summer.
A surprise message from the supergroup said: “Everybody knows somebody who knew somebody. Rest in Peace. Zayn, Liam, Harry, Niall and Louis.”
Mourners lined up in their hundreds as Keane’s white hearse approached, gently drawn by two horses with pink feathers on their heads.
The defiant splashes of colour are surely what Keane – pupil activist, aspiring prime minister and One Direction lover – would have wanted.
“I want you to live a life that would honour Keane’s memory, one that will make this world a better place – live life to the full,” Reverend Cameron MacKenzie, who led the service, told a congregation that was at least 400-strong and spilled out of the chapel’s main entrance.
“Her family want to have a party today – they want to celebrate today and your presence with them will help them do just that,” he said.
It was a theme that resounded throughout the simple and serene service, punctuated by poignant tracks including Lene Marlin’s A Place Nearby, Phil Wickham’s Heaven Song and Keep Holding On by Avril Lavigne.
Also played was Keane’s Song, which had been written specially for her by friends and performed by guitarist David McNeish.
Although questions abound on what went wrong at Liberton High earlier this month, mourners were encouraged instead to remember the young girl’s dedication and determination to help those around her. They heard how the “smart and compassionate” pupil wrote to the city council after starting at Liberton High to ask for better equipment for her school.
They were told about the fun-loving music lover who left a “trail of glitter” and “fake fingernails” behind her wherever she went. And they listened as Rev MacKenzie described her love of a wide range of sport and hobbies.
He said: “At primary school she was a member of the gardening club, loved to play basketball and dance.
“She was an activist, writing to the council to ask for better equipment. Which shows you she was very smart and passionate. Keane was keen, so very keen, electrically keen. She joined in everything – in school and outside the school.”
But underlying the reverend’s heartfelt tribute – and despite the determination to celebrate Keane’s short life – there was a strong sense of loss.
The reverend urged those gathered to support the
youngster’s family in their hour of need. “I ask that you never forget Keane or her family – I ask that you remain in touch,” he said.
“Keane will not know many of the life events that Keane’s friends will know and that’s a tragedy – a tragedy for Keane and for her friends and her extended family.
“The single thing that’s been keeping this family on its feet during the terrible loss of Keane has been the vast amount of love that they have received.”
There was no overt reference to the ongoing police inquiry into what caused the tragedy at Liberton High. But there was perhaps a message for those in the congregation – among them Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader – who have the task of ensuring the Capital’s schools are safe and fit for use.
With the service drawing to a close, the reverend said: “We pray that lessons will be learned – that other catastrophes can be avoided, and that hope can rise from where only darkness is now present.”
Liberton High pupils are preparing to return to school next week after the building was given the all-clear but unanswered questions – what exactly caused the tragedy and where responsibility lies – continue to proliferate.
Above the sobs which occasionally broke yesterday’s post-service calm, there was only acute grief mixed with a determination to remember all that was best about the youngster. And summing up the mood were the personal tributes – provided by Keane’s closest family members and friends – included in the order of service.
Abbie M wrote: “So many memories in such a short time, wish we could have had more.”
Perhaps most piercing was the message left by Keane’s brother, Ryan. It said simply: “To my beautiful super sister.
“I would do anything to spend one more day with you. I love you so much and a part of me is missing.”
ONE DIRECTION’S MESSAGE
IT makes us extremely proud to have had a fan as special as Keane. We have all been deeply saddened by what has happened. We understand that no words can console those who knew her. We are thinking of her as we are all of you. We are honoured to have brought her happiness in any way, she will be greatly missed. With all the love in the world, Liam, Harry, Zayn, Louis + Niall. XXXXX
‘I’LL MISS SEEING YOUR SMILE’
A NUMBER of Keane’s closest family members and friends left simple yet powerful tributes to the 12-year-old, which were included in the order of service:
• “Keane, we have been best friends since we were little and I’m going to miss seeing your smile every day. Sleep tight beautiful. Love Aimee x”
• “Keane, love and miss you (my second sister). Love Kieran x”
• “So many memories in such a short time, wish we could have had more, missing you millions and love you loads Buba. Abbie M x”
• “Keane, I will love and miss you forever. Lots of love Dylan R x”
• “Keane, I love and miss you millions. Love Alix x”
• “Death is peaceful, life is harder (Twilight). Life will be hard without your beautiful smile Keane. Love you always sissy, Sarah H x”
• “Keane, my beautiful best friend and our memories together will stay in my heart forever. Naomi x”
• “Can’t believe you’re gone my baby girl, love you lots, Megan x”
• “Dear Keane, I love you and miss you millions beautiful angel. Amy F x”
• “To my beautiful super sister, I would do anything to spend one more day with you. I love you so much and a part of me is missing. Love Ryan x”.