BLAIRSVILLE (KDKA) — Candles lit up the night sky in Blairsville on Thursday evening as the community came out to show their love and support for the family of Nalani Johnson.

The 2-year-old was found dead, while still in her car seat, outside a park in Blairsville Tuesday, days after an Amber Alert was issued for the Penn Hills toddler.

KDKA’s Lindsay Ward Reports:


 

Tonight, the residents of Blairsville wanted to show their support for the family of the little girl.

After the vigil emotions ran over for the family and friends in attendance at the service.

The vigil was beautiful, hundreds came out to Veterans Memorial Park to show this hurting family that they are loved, supported and not alone in their enormous grief.

After the vigil the emotions of the family and the loved ones of little Nalani came to the surface and overflowed.

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Community Prayers read out loud under a dark sky in Blairsville with candles illuminating the hillside at Veterans Memorial Park.

Residents in this small, close community say their hearts were ripped open after days of searching and praying for Nalani to be found alive, only for the worst to happen.

“It feels like she died in our backyard,” said Sandy Palmer of Blairsville

“Nalani is all of our sisters, all of our nieces and all of our daughters she was found in Blairsville, we are now her extended family,” said Nadia Tillman, one of the vigil’s organizers and founder of Blairsville Helping Hand.

The entire Pittsburgh region prayed the toddler child would return home safely from the time the Amber Alert was issued for the Penn Hills toddler Saturday night. Nalani was found dead Tuesday afternoon on the outskirts of Pine Ridge Park off Route 22.

Blairsville residents say not a single person in the town has been unaffected by this child’s tragedy.

“She didn’t deserve that she was so little and it’s so sad that it happened near here, it shouldn’t have happened at all nobody should do that to a kid,” Savannah Lischak of Blairsville said.

Residents donated dozens of heart-shaped balloons. The group recited the Lord’s prayer holding hands and after a soulful rendition of “Amazing Grace,” there was a release of monarch butterflies.

“Having a son this can happen anytime, anyplace, it’s it’s important to show him what the world can be like,” said Ron Long of Blairsville.

“She didn’t deserve this her life was cut too short, she still had plenty and plenty of years to go yet, just cut too short,” Said Long’s 15-year-old son, Kody Long also of Blairsville.

After the vigil family and close family friends of Nalani’s were overrun with emotions and grief, many having a disagreement with one another.

Police were there to redirect everyone home.

Both Nalani’s mom and dad were among family members in attendance tonight. Nalani’s dad Paul Johnson thanked the crowd for coming and said he could feel their love.

Organizers of tonight’s vigil also say there is a petition circulating to put in a toddler’s playground at Pine Ridge Park and to rename the park in her memory.