Candlelight Vigil Held in Honor of Nicole Hughes and Ariella Bell— victims of the tragic Franklin shooting


Monitor staff

Published: 06-08-2023 4:25 PM

The five-year-old survivor of the fatal shooting in Franklin attended her mother and sister’s vigil on Tuesday, her wounded arm buried underneath a fuzzy pink bathrobe with unicorns and rainbows.

Last Saturday, Jamie Bell is believed to have shot his partner Nicole Hughes and 18-month-old daughter Ariella Bell. Hughes’s five-year-old daughter was also shot but survived. The Monitor is not naming her following its policy of not naming juveniles or victims of domestic violence without their consent.

Hundreds of people — some friends and family, some with no connection to the tragedy — gathered at the Bessie Rowell baseball field on Tuesday night with candles to light and stuffed animals to give to the young survivor.

Two fireworks, one after the other, erupted in the sky at around 8:15 p.m., and the vigil for the mother and daughter began soon after.

Tents were set up on the field with cards to send prayers to the family, a book to write down memories of Nicole and Ariella (who went by “Ella”), extra candles, and a grief counselor for anyone in need.

The first family member to speak was Nicole’s cousin and first best friend, Liana. She stood at home plate on the baseball field, cameras behind her and a devastated crowd in front.

“God, we don't understand why  this has happened, but we will trust you with our questions,” she said, stumbling through breaths and broken whimpers. “Tonight we need your help.”

After expressing gratitude for all of the community support, Liana could not speak anymore. She buckled over and wept, her family crouched down beside her for comfort.

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They propped the microphone against a cell phone on the dirt field that played Dancing in the Sky by Dani and Lizzy while the family gathered together privately.

“I hope you’re dancing in the sky
And I hope you’re singing in the angel’s choir
And I hope the angels know what they have
I’ll bet it’s so nice up in Heaven since you arrived.”

Then, Dan Hughes went up to speak of losing his daughter and granddaughter. He took the microphone, but kept his back toward the crowd, unable to face this mass of mourning people.

“We’ve been family members of Franklin since 1993 when we moved here, and I say family members because I don’t think that people realize how close-knit this city is,” Hughes said.

“I heard a lot of bad things when we came here, and I’ve never, ever, ever experienced anything but kindness from the entire city of Franklin.”

The sun set over the vigil, and the changing sky made the candlelight grow more radiant.

As her grandfather spoke, the five-year-old called for him.

“Why are you crying?” she asked her “Papa,” climbing into his arms as he picked her up.

“Those are just allergies,” he replied. She smiled and waved to her five-year-old buddies in the crowd who engaged in a casual conversation, seemingly unaware of the crowd watching them. The girl spread a lightness and giggle throughout the field.

The crowd started chanting her name, celebrating the strength that this little girl has given to her community.