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Vigil held after tragic death of SEB student Lori Blitch
During a candlelight vigil Tuesday night at Southeast Bulloch High School, seniors Tia Rawls, 18, right, Kamala Grooms, 17, center, and Kasey Satcher, 17, remember their friend and classmate Lori Blitch. Blitch was found dead at her mother's home in Savannah Tuesday morning. Rawls gave a personal testimony to her friendship with Blitch that goes back to middle school. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
      On a cold, star-filled night in Brooklet, students and faculty from Southeast Bulloch High gathered in front of the school to remember their friend and classmate, Lori Blitch.
      The 18-year-old Blitch died tragically in her sleep early Tuesday of unknown causes, said Bulloch County coroner Jake Futch. He said her body was taken to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Savannah for an autopsy. Blitch lived with her grandmother in Brooklet, but died at her mother's home in Savannah.
      In temperatures nearing 40 degrees, about 100 people attended a candlelight vigil Tuesday night for Blitch. Blitch was dual-enrolled at Ogeechee Technical College during the fall and she had earned enough credits to graduate, said Gene Eaton, a counselor at SEB.
      "She was a real pleasant child with a beautiful bright smile," Eaton said. "She was really kind of a model student."
Principal Dr. Trey Robertson notified most of the SEB community about Blitch's death with a phone call along with an invitation to the vigil, which began at 8 p.m.
      Senior class president Natasha Polite said students organized the vigil.
      As the candles were lit, Blitch's classmates and teachers assembled in a circle in the atrium area. Polite invited anyone to say something about Blitch, and through tears and strong emotions a few spoke about their lost friend.
      "She had so many plans - prom, graduation," said Tia Rawls, a senior. "My friend is gone, but I'll push on for her. I'm going to dedicate everything I do from now on to her."
      Michael Newton and his family live next door to Blitch's grandmother. He described her as "a sweet child who was almost always happy. We watched her grow up. I'm going to miss her as I know all of you will."
      Eaton spoke about other students at Southeast Bulloch who had died tragically.
      "I've had a lot of opportunities to try to understand why these things happen and I still don't," Eaton said. "We now must uphold her family and uphold each other."
      With students not returning from Christmas break until Jan. 7, Eaton said school administrators would "play it by ear" to determine how much counseling might be needed.
      "Kids are real resilient," Eaton said. "They can surprise you how much they can heal in a short period of time. The vigil tonight, Lori's funeral and spending time with friends will get us all some closure."
      Blitch's friend and fellow senior Jason Alcott said her death would change how he looked at life.
      "Lori spoke about ‘Carpe Diem' - Seize the Day," Alcott said. "She would want us all to Seize the Day. We all need to live every day as if something could happen the next day. We need to live without bitterness towards each other. We need to show the love that Lori showed to each other."
      Arrangements for Blitch's funeral have not been announced.