SIDNEY - Standing in close knots on the floor of the Sidney High School Gymnasium Friday night, Sherry Arnold's students tried - for the first time, really - to find some way to express their grief.
News had broken only that morning that Arnold, missing since early Saturday, had died and that law enforcement officials had detained possible suspects in her death. The students, along with members of the community, religious leaders and Arnold's husband Gary Arnold, gathered at a hastily organized memorial service at the high school to remember Sherry.
Austin Bridges, a senior, and Brandon Miller, a junior at the high school, and past students of Arnold's, found no words to say to each other and simply hugged, holding each other in a tight embrace, fighting back tears.
"She'd always make the time, give you special attention," Bridges said. "And she was always nice about it."
"She actually cared about our lives outside of school," Miller said.
Roughly 200 people were in the gym. They heard from 10 pastors and preachers from the community who had come to speak of comfort and strength. Their remarks were short and poignant. A few simply read from a selection of Psalms, "the Lord is my shepherd" and "we will not fear."
Rev. David Huskamp from Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church offered a prayer at the start of his remarks and quickly broke into tears.
"The things that hold us together are faith, hope and love," he said. Speaking of Jesus' resurrection, he added, "He gave us hope that death is not the end. That's real hope."
Rev. Matt Nelson, of the Lutheran Brethren, spoke directly to the students at the service. He spoke of the powerful influence Arnold had in their lives and smiled as he talked about her ability to make even the most difficult mathematical concepts understandable.
"You've had something taken from you," he told them. "But there's something Mrs. Arnold has given you that can never be taken away."
The service was somber and quiet. Towards the end, many in the crowd seemed to let go of their emotions and they openly wept as Arnold was remembered and prayers were offered in her and her family's behalf.
Tears streamed down Ashley Cooley's face as she remembered her math teacher. Cooley, who graduated from the high school last year, had been Arnold's student aide her senior year.
"She was an amazing math teacher," she said, smiling. "She loved what she did and she loved her students. She had an amazing heart."