NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — In the hours, days, and weeks following the Covenant School shooting, a makeshift memorial slowly started to grow.
Thousands of teddy bears, flowers, and letters were left at the entrance of the school’s driveway.
If you’ve driven past the memorial lately, you might notice something missing.
All of the stuffed animals, handmade signs, cards, and many other items that hundreds of residents brought to memorialize all the victims are now being preserved in the basement of a very special woman, Anna Caudill.
“I thought about how it might be one of the parents or one of the children to ride past and see these stuffed animals gradually getting worn down by the weather, and I really wanted to take care of that for the community,” Caudill said.
In the midst of tragedy, heartbreak, and confusion, Anna Caudill, who lost her dear friend, Dr. Katherine Koonce in the shooting, wanted to make sure that the items brought to this memorial would last forever.
“I drove over right after Katherine’s visitation, and my husband helped me load up the van with the first load,” Caudill said emotionally.
After speaking with officials at The Covenant School, she started loading up thousands of items and brought them to her home, where she cleaned and preserved each item.
“Next steps would include meeting with the elders over at The Covenant Church, and also meeting with some representatives from the Nashville State Museum, the State Archives, and you know, talking about what portions of this tell Tennessee story and Nashville story and Covenant story. What I would like to see for the families is if there are things that are meaningful to them, that they feel like they can hold on to, or need to hold on to, that there’s room for them to do that. Somebody’s just been taking care of that until they are ready,” Caudill said.
Walking down her basement, it’s an overwhelming sense knowing that so many people from all over have brought thousands of items to remember all of the lives lost and, for some, to allow themselves to heal.
Caudill said as she arranges and sorts through everything, “I think about the kids I’ve seen bringing things and wished there was a way to tell them I’ve gotten everybody taken care of; they’re getting tucked in at night. It’s wild to me that the Society of American Archivists has a toolkit for how to respond in a time like this, with templates for how to itemize stuff because this keeps happening.”
In the coming weeks, Caudill will be seeking volunteer archivists and community partners to aid in the preservation effort. If you’re interested, you can email her existing nonprofit organization, which can be found by clicking here.