Teacher writes heartbreaking essay about Sapphire, youngest murder victim in Sumner County

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The brutal murder of 12-year-old Sapphire McGlothlin-Pee one week ago has left a wound on the Westmoreland community. Sapphire, her mother, grandmother, and four other people are the victims of a murderous spree that authorities still don’t fully understand. 

Sapphire’s teacher in Westmoreland, Julie Templeton, wrote this heart-breaking tribute to the student she admired and loved.  

“Sapphire. That’s her name.  It’s so much lovelier than “the 12yr old girl,” or “the youngest victim of the most deadly and horrific mass murder in Tennessee in at least 2 decades.” Her name is Sapphire.  And she was one of mine.  Any teacher will tell you that the memories and impact of their students (their “kids”) stay with them far beyond the 180 days they share a classroom.  Then there are those who insist on chiseling out a permanent place in your heart.  Sapphire did.  She did that the day she was jumping up and down on the playground with that unicorn ponytail singing “it’s my birthday, it’s my birthday!”

“I had expected to hear her name on the news one day announcing that she would be at the local bookstore signing copies of “Foop Finally Finds His Imaginary Phone” or “Mr. Whiskers Gets His Shots”. I looked forward to the nationwide release of the movie “Girl Godzilla”.  She told me all about that movie one day as we breezed back and forth on the swings together.  She “HAD to write Girl Godzilla because no one else had thought to do a story about a girl Godzilla monster.”  It would have been Oscar-worthy I’m sure.  Oh….the imagination! I will forever see her jumping up and down and running across the playground as she shared her colorful world with us! 

“I have struggled mightily this week.  I’ve functioned on autopilot, as we all have at our little school.  I have tried to make sense of her tragic, senseless death.  It’s been impossible. How could someone so extraordinary be dealt a fate like this?  

“But a couple of days ago I was looking through a book of poems and illustrations she left me.  It was full of colors and smiles and bright, happy butterflies.  I order butterflies every year, and our class watches as their life cycle unfolds in front of us.  Sapphire LOVED our butterflies.  She wanted to name them all, touch them all and love them all!  As I looked at her drawings I remembered a question I’ve been asked several times over the years, “Why are there butterflies anyway?” My answer is always this, “There are some things in this world that aren’t meant to DO anything.  Their purpose is simply to bring something beautiful and unique into our world for only a brief amount of time; a gift from God to just enjoy and marvel at as it lives a full life in just a few weeks of time.”  I guess I’ve been focusing on the wrong thing all week.  Instead of trying to find meaning in her death I need to focus on the meaning of her life.  It’s a much happier thought.  

“Thank you Sapphire!  Thank you for flying by me on your short journey here and dropping some of your magical, colorful pixie dust on my life. You were such a gift.  I will remember you and smile every time I see one of your kindred spirits flutter by.  I will always love you my sweet gem…Sapphire.

Sapphire’s teacher also shared some of her classroom drawings from 2015: Click here if you’re on the News 2 App. 

Artwork by Sapphire McGlothlin-Pee, 2015

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