Photo Courtesy: Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post
MANASSAS, Va. (WUSA)--More than two thousand mourners joined each other in grief as they remembered Brian Betts, the DC middle school principal slain in his Silver Spring home last week.
An emotional wake was held at the Pierce Funeral Home in Manassas. Eight busloads of students were among the mourners, clutching handmade posters and tissues. They struggled to say goodbye to Brian Betts, a man who played such an important role in their lives.
9NEWS NOW wanted to let them pay tribute to their murdered principal, in their own words:
"Instead of making us a school, he made us a family. And it's hard to know the father of our family is gone... that we loved so much," said one girl.
"Mr. Betts wasn't just my principal, he was my best friend," said a 9th grade boy. "And he helped me be the person I am today."
"For some of us, he was a father, a mentor, an important person," said a boy wearing a crisp dark suit.
"He was also like a true father to me. I talked to him when I needed help. I loved him, dearly," said another 9th grader.
The parents of Brian Betts, and his sister, greeted more the mourners. Among them, a group of 9th graders who liked Betts so much, they did something extraordinary and lobbied the school system to stay at Shaw Middle School for another year, as 9th graders. It was unprecedented.
"He understood everything about the 9th graders. He would know what we were going through in our lives. We could call him anytime at night and he would listen. No matter what," one of Betts' students remembered.
A girl added, "Just to lose somebody so close to you. He wasn't just a principal, he was like a best friend."
"When one of us was having problems, he would find a way to help us. He was like the best principal we ever had," said a teary-eyed 9th grade boy.
While children try to understand the incomprehensible, police look for a killer.
"Do you know what kind of a person you took from this earth? He did not deserve it," said a girl as she held a classmate's hand.
"They took away a man we all respect. An innocent man," another boy added.
"The person who killed Mr. Betts took a second father from me," a young football player told us.
"He took the only person we had to keep us moving forward. Now we got to do it by ourselves," said his teammate.
"If I could say a final goodbye to Mr. Betts, I would tell him I love him so much. It's not a goodbye," said a girl wiping away a tear, "but see you soon."
Several students told 9NEWS NOW they are really going to work hard to get proficient in math and English, so they can help realize Betts' dream, of being the highest scoring school in the District.
Written by Andrea McCarren
9NEWS NOW & WUSA9.com