Kirkwood in candle light

Richard Pfeifer, features writer

“We will not forget”

Candle light and prayers illuminated downtown Kirkwood City Hall in remembrance of the 2008 Kirkwood City Council Shooting on a crisp Feb. 7 night. Lines of police officers stood in front of a large American flag hung from the ladder of a fire truck on Kirkwood Road, which was partially blocked for the duration of the ceremony. Before walking down the path of Connor Park, where concrete memorial tiles of the 2008 shooting lay, Mayor Timothy E. Griffin, city council members and several residents affected by the shooting delivered addresses to the crowd gathered outside Kirkwood City Hall.

“Many lives were changed those 10 years ago,” Griffin said to the crowd surrounding city hall. “[This vigil] is for all of those who were involved that evening, and for the entire Kirkwood community who pulled together with great strength and courage as all Kirkwoodians would do. Most especially [this vigil] is for those who were killed [in the shooting]. We have not forgotten, and we remember them by their names.”

Griffin then passed the stage to Deputy Mayor Paul Ward who, along with calling for remembrance, pointed out the long path Kirkwood has in order to make sure an event like the 2008 shooting doesn’t occur again. Ward advocated for greater investment in mental health services as he mentioned most mass shootings that preceded the 2008 Kirkwood City Council Shooting also involved those who were “mentally disturbed.”

“Crime and violence happening elsewhere can and will happen were we are,” Ward said to the crowd. “We came together after the unfortunate February day and helped each other in small and large ways. On this day of remembrance let us recommit ourselves to be a beacon for reconciliation and understanding. We need to stride to make Kirkwood a more inclusive community.”

For a closing prayer, Priest John Costello from St. Peter’s Catholic Church, less than half a mile from Kirkwood City Hall, called for remembrance to all involved. Including the shooter, Charles “Cookie” Thornton, who Costello described as a man who felt like he was isolated from the community, and hit a breaking point. Costello then added what he hopes the future of Kirkwood and its community holds.  

Tonight we rededicate our beloved city of Kirkwood”


“We come together to remember the night time stopped for [Kirkwood residents],” Costello said in his prayer on stage. “Tonight we rededicate our beloved city of Kirkwood as the place were good people gather. Let [Kirkwood] be a place where openness reigns, a place where listening occurs, a place where constructive open minded dialogue always holds way.”  

As Costollo brings his prayer to a close, silence fell upon the crowd. A silence only to be broken by two bagpipe playing police officers standing on the steps of City Hall who lead the crowd in the song “Amazing Grace.” Mayor Griffin and the Kirkwood Color Guard then lead the crowd of Kirkwood Community members to a memorial commemorating the victims. Illuminated by the glow of his fellow residences’ candles Griffin spoke to members individually about the 2008 shooting and how it affected, and still is affecting, the community.   

“[The community] has been coming together since the day [the shooting] happened. It’s not surprising at all that it happened again tonight. There will never be a time were [Kirkwood] forgets to remember what happened here 10 years ago. We will not forget.”