GEISMAR — The gathering Thursday could have been a late afternoon Fourth of July celebration in this corner of Ascension Parish, where the parents say they have known one another since they were kids, and now their kids are good friends.
Children played on the trampolines.
Others kicked balls and shot baskets. A few rode bikes.
The adults stood around and chatted.
Everyone was hot.
But it was July 3, and no one was celebrating Independence Day with that carefree feeling of summertime.
“Sad,” Makayla McMeller, 9, assessed of the moment.
“Very,” agreed Da’Mahiya Ricard, 9.
Makayla and Da’Mahiya were among the dozens of children who gathered with their parents and other adults at the home of David and Shayla Lanus to remember the lives of their children, Sarai “Ladybug” Lanus, 9, and her brother Daylon “Duce” Lanus, 6.
The siblings were killed June 24 while fishing with their dad, David Lanus, 30, and other relatives in a bayou along Bluff Road. A sport utility vehicle went off the narrow, two-lane state highway in a curve, down a steep embankment and ran into the group.
Trooper Jared Sandifer, spokesman for the State Police Troop A, said Thursday that the accident remains under investigation and the driver, Shawnette B. Taylor, 47, of Prairieville, has not been arrested or cited at this time.
David Lanus said Taylor sent a letter through family members, saying how sorry she was, and a pastor read it to him and his family earlier Thursday.
Taylor, through her husband, has declined comment about the crash.
At the gathering Thursday, members of David Lanus’ old softball team, the Hit and Run Softball Club, gave him their first-place trophy from a tournament the previous weekend then circled around him in prayer.
Still on crutches with a soft, blue cast around his right leg, Lanus wept as he accepted the trophy and received the team’s blessing.
“It’s good to know you still have people who care about you, think about you,” Lanus said later, sitting in a lawn chair next to his wife and their 1-year-old, Dyson, and surrounded by friends and family.
“We’re here just to show our support to the family and just honor them,” said a tearful Keisha Lang, 34, who, with her husband, Daniel Lang, 35, and their family, lives next door to the Lanuses.
Makayla was one of several people wearing T-shirts with pictures of the Lanus children that dubbed them the “Kool Kids.” Makayla said Sarai Lanus was a smart girl and was going to be in her class at Dutchtown Primary in August.
Makayla said she and Sarai worked on dances together — Sarai’s mother has said her daughter loved to dance — and they developed one called the Runway Walk.
“She was like a sister to me,” said Makayla, who lives across the street from the Lanuses.
Those at the memorial gathering released balloons in the deceased children’s honor after prayer, softly sung songs and a final call-and-response invocation that asked for heavenly aid and comfort for the Lanuses, eliciting a “Yes” from the group several times.
“We know that God makes no mistakes. Whatever God do, his will must be done. We just thank God that we can accept his will. In the name of Jesus, Father, we trust you. In the name of the Holy Ghost, Father, we thank you,” said Mattie West, president of Ladies of the Black Pearls, one of several Ascension social groups gathered for the event.
“Release your balloons. All is well.”
Balloons in pink, blue, shiny silver and other colors and designs rose into the afternoon sky, becoming smaller and smaller as they left behind the sorrow on Anderson Road.
Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.