PORTAGE | Through the early darkness Tuesday night, a stream of light walked up Willowcreek Road.
More than 100 friends, acquaintances and even strangers came to honor Amanda Bach, the Portage 19-year-old who was shot and killed Sept. 16 in Union Township.
They weren't there so much to remember what happened to her that night, but to remember what she had brought to them during her short life.
"We'd only known her a short time, and she touched our heart. Her smile touched us," said Fran Smith, of South Haven, who described herself as an acquaintance of the 2011 Portage High School graduate.
Closer friends said they felt Amanda, who loved parades, with them as they gathered in the Kmart parking lot under skies that cleared for the more than one-mile walk to Gilbert Park.
"I think she's loving it. I think she's looking down and smiling," close friend Diana Bernal said. "She would love that people are thinking of her and supporting her."
The walk was organized by friend Carolyn Rodriguez, who didn't let the sometimes torrential rain during the day dim her spirits.
"It was God's blessing," she said of the clearing skies.
The walkers donned blue ribbons and held carnations and candles. They were escorted by Portage, South Haven and Union Township fire department units.
When they reached Gilbert Park, they gathered under the gazebo to honor the young girl who had planned to attend college next year.
"She had that little laugh that got high-pitched," Bernal. "Even when you were mad at her, she would look at you in a special way and you weren't mad anymore."
Rodriguez thanked the crowd for attending.
"Don't leave here with your heads down," she said. "Keep smiling for Amanda because everybody knew she loved to smile."