BRUSLY — As Brusly High School Assistant Principal Faye Davis read a speech Monday night that commemorated Sylviane Lozada, more than 400 people lit candles to remember the mother and teacher who has been missing for more than a month.
“Tonight we light a candle for Sylviane because she lives in our heart,” Davis said inside the school’s gym.
The lighting of the candles came after an hour-long service dubbed “Carrying the Light for Sylviane.” A video, prayers, speeches and songs all honored Lozada, a beloved French and Spanish teacher in the community.
Everyone wore a white shirt and yellow ribbon. The white represented unity, and the ribbons represented Lozada’s disappearance.
Karen Wooley, one of Lozada’s best friends at the school, read a letter written by Lozada’s sister, Gillian Paquet. The letter thanked the Brusly community for its support and love during Lozada’s disappearance.
“We have been deeply touched,” Wooley read from the letter.
The letter also said Lozada had spoken to family members while back home in Belgium recently about troubles in her marriage with her husband, Oscar Lozada.
“I wish she could have stayed in Belgium near us,” Wooley read.
The letter also said members of Lozada’s family planned to travel to the United States as soon as investigators gave them “the green light.”
Before the vigil, Kane Loupe, 18, a student of Lozada’s at Brusly High, spoke highly of her.
Loupe, who graduated in May, worked as a “teacher cadet” for Lozada. He helped her craft lesson plans and also taught Brusly elementary students.
Loupe said it was an “honor” to work with Lozada.
“She had so much knowledge,” he said. “We would all go to Mrs. Lozada’s room at lunch.”
Also before the vigil, Brusly High School Principal Walt Lemoine said the idea for the event came about because people just wanted to do something to remember Lozada.
He said Lozada taught five different classes at Brusly and “never complained.”
“She was a true professional,” he said.
West Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent David Corona also attended the vigil. He said he spoke to Lozada every time he went to the school, which he said was often.
“She was a great individual,” Corona said after the event.
Monday’s vigil was the second in a week for Lozada.
Brusly High School teachers previously held their own prayer vigil Aug. 2. Monday night’s vigil was community-wide.
“We spread the word about the vigil through our Facebook page and then people from there spread the word on their own,” Linda Hooper-Bui, a close family friend of Lozada’s, said Monday before the ceremony.
Hooper-Bui also said spreading awareness of Sylviane’s disappearance throughout the nation and outside of the United States is part of a plan to get Sylviane’s husband to contact the authorities.
Hooper-Bui’s 4-year-old daughter, Thuy Bui, is Angelina Lozada’s best friend, Hooper-Bui said. Angelina Lozada is Sylviane’s 4-year-old daughter.
“She has good days and bad days,” Hooper-Bui said of her daughter’s coping with not seeing her best friend.
The two children and families met when Thuy and Angelina were in day care together, Hooper-Bui said.
“We were supposed to do a couple of things with Sylviane and Angelina before July was over. We have told Thuy that Miss Sylviane is missing, but as far as we know, safe,” Hooper-Bui said.
Bob Chatelain knew Oscar and Sylviane Lozada and planned to travel from Lafayette to attend Monday night’s vigil.
Chatelain said in a telephone interview before the vigil that Oscar Lozada dated his sister-in-law prior to marrying Sylviane Lozada.
Oscar Lozada was “very controlling” during his relationship with Chatelain’s relative, Chatelain said.
“We were happy when she left him,” Chatelain said.
Chatelain also said that Oscar Lozada can “put on a good show.”
“He can be very nice,” Chatelain said.
Sylviane and her daughter, Angelina, are wonderful, Chatelain said.
“I hope they are found,” he said.
Lozada has been missing since July 5, East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks has said.
That was the last time Lozada spoke to family in Belgium, whom she contacted regularly, Hicks said.
Lozada was reported missing to the Sheriff’s Office on July 18, Hicks said.
Detectives suspect foul play in the case based on physical evidence obtained from Lozada’s home at 2234 Springlake Drive, Hicks has said.
Sylviane Lozada’s disappearance has garnered international attention from outlets such as CNN, Fox News and RTL-TVI, a TV station in Lozada’s native Belgium.
Lozada’s husband and daughter flew to Oscar’s home country of Venezuela on July 9, Hicks said.
They were scheduled to return to the United States on July 14 but have not come back, Hicks said.
Although Oscar Lozada was in touch with authorities in the days after Sylviane Lozada was reported missing, deputies have not talked to him since then, Hicks has said.
Oscar Lozada has not been named a suspect in the case.
Sylviane and Oscar Lozada’s relationship had been strained in the past, Sheriff’s Office records show.
Sylviane Lozada had been planning to divorce her husband, Wooley has said.
Advocate staff writers Steven Ward and Kimberly Vetter contributed to this report.