Centreville Erin Peterson was just 18 when she became a victim of the April 16, 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. But her parents, Centreville’s Grafton and Celeste Peterson, make sure the Westfield High grad’s legacy lives on.
They established the Erin Peterson Fund to continue their daughter’s commitment to reaching goals through education and aiding people in need. They also began an annual Gospel Celebration in remembrance of her and to raise money for the fund.
The 6th Annual Erin Peterson Gospel Celebration of Life was held Sunday, April 14, at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Centreville, and Celeste Peterson addressed the crowd.
“My daughter set the bar high and I’m trying to carry on in her name,” said Peterson. “She wanted to work for a nonprofit and help those less fortunate. My daughter gave us deep roots for times like these when we need an anchor. And we’re here today to praise the Lord and raise funds for the Erin Peterson Fund.”
Although Erin’s been gone six years, she said, “She’s with me every day, advising me. She’s teaching me how to live and give thanks to the Lord.” Peterson also acknowledged her husband, calling him her “strength. When I come home crying, he’s the one who tells me it’s going to be OK. We’ve been married 28 years and he’s a blessing to me; I think God for giving him to me.”
Award-winning Gospel singer Crystal Aikin wowed the audience with her voice. But besides singing, she also shared her thoughts. “I’ve lost a loved one, myself, so I know how you feel,” she said. “You may look fine on the outside; but inside, you’re broken.”
“But let me encourage you — you shall make it,” said Aikin. “Tragedy doesn’t come to the feint; it comes to the strong. And it’s through the loss that we have victory. Erin died young, but not unfulfilled, because God fulfilled her purpose.”
At the program’s end, Peterson thanked everyone attending for their donations, saying she couldn’t run the Erin Peterson Fund without them. Then the Rev. Eugene Johnson, Mount Olive’s pastor, spoke.
“This is important that we can come together and reflect and tell our young people they can move forward, in spite of challenges,” he said. “This fund recognizes Erin’s legacy, and we bless the experience that Erin allowed us to share together this afternoon.”