James Wright at the community memorial for his daughter Bridget. Photo: Kylie Pitt
As images of his young daughter flashed before him on a screen beneath the drizzling rain, James Wright kissed the blue balloon he was holding and let it go, watching it rise into the sky.
Hundreds of children, mothers, fathers and locals gathered last night at the Pitt Town sports club to mourn the passing of eight-year-old school girl Bridget Wright, who was killed a week ago by a falling tree branch.
Marquees were erected on the oval adjoining the club, in a small semi-rural community northwest of Sydney, to shelter the mourners from the rain.
Bridget Wright, killed by a tree that fell in the playground of Pitt Town Public school. Photo: Supplied
Mr Wright took to the stage to thank the community, his newly found "brothers and sisters", for their support and remind them to celebrate his little girl's life.
"From now on, I'm here for you guys because you guys have been there for me," he said.
Bridget's classmates from Pitt Town Public School later lined up behind the microphone and one-by-one offered their memories of the year 2 student with big, blue eyes and a ready, gap-toothed smile.
James Wright looks up to the sky as balloons are released at his Bridget's memorial. Photo: Kylie Pitt
"Smart", "talented", "pretty", "funny", "kind", "friendly": these were the words the primary school children used to describe their friend, who was pinned under a seven-metre branch that fell from a towering gum tree in the school playground last Friday.
"She used to cheer me up when I was sad," one said. "She helped me with problems," said another. The final words from the Pitt Town school pupils came from a girl, who smiled at the crowd and said: "She was my crazy best friend."
A private funeral was held for Bridget at Castle Hill earlier in the day, but her family invited her school, taekwondo friends and Pitt Town residents to a public memorial at the local club to allow the community to mourn.
The release of hundreds of blue and purple balloons into the sky, many carrying messages of love, and a taekwondo demonstration followed a slideshow of images capturing Bridget's life over her eight years.
Her mother, Alaina Wright, wept behind sun glasses as she stood in the midst of the community under a marquee and watched the images roll by.
James Wright clutched his daughter's toy lamb, dubbed "Shebe", throughout the evening.
"Every day we fought over it," he said with a smile. "Now it's mine."
Two other children, Matilda Hurst, five, and her brother Thomas, seven, as well as teacher Warren Minton, were injured when the branch fell a week ago.
The NSW education department has ordered all schools to conduct an audit of trees on their grounds.