Just after 9 p.m. Monday, an eerie quiet fell over Norman field. Sobs cut through the night.
More than 300 people formed a jagged circle in the back end of the field. They were a protective capsule around a smaller group of girls crying — and later praying — for Tampa teen Jacqueline Faircloth.
The prayer circle honored 18-year-old Jackie, who was hit by a car while visiting family in Tallahassee early Saturday morning and remains in a medically induced coma. The H.B. Plant High School senior stepped onto Pensacola Street when witnesses said a red or silver SUV struck her then the driver fled the scene.
As of Monday morning, Jackie was in stable-but-critical condition, according to a family member who posted on the Facebook page “Pray for Jackie.” The post expressed concerns about brain swelling following the emergency surgery she received after being rushed to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital that night.
“They are keeping a very close eye on her today and keeping her room very, very quiet so that nothing will stimulate her and risk causing any more swelling,” the post said. “All the machines in her room are doing their job, her numbers are fortunately still in the good range and she is still fighting.”
Jackie’s brother, JT Faircloth, and cousins Billy and Kelly Darnell attend Florida State University. Her cousins Katie and Brooke Faircloth attend UF.
Katie and Brooke were embraced at the center of the prayer circle Monday by friends — some of whom didn’t know Jackie.
Liz Leverone, a 19-year-old UF family, youth and community sciences freshman and longtime friend of Jackie, organized the event and led the group in prayer.
“Give Jackie your light in this darkness,” Leverone prayed. “We need her.”
A group of six friends took turns leading the group praying for Jackie. Many held hands while sniffles rippled through the group.
Friend Lauren Maloney, a 19-year-old UF public relations sophomore, also prayed for the driver.
“If there is anyone who knows the person who was driving the car, be with them,” Maloney prayed. “Do not hold your mercy from them. Lord, as you know what lies in the darkness, reveal this darkness to the driver, and bring it to light.”
After the prayers, smaller groups formed to continue praying for Jackie, while others wrote notes on multicolored Post-it notes to send to her family.
Many spoke fondly of Jackie, calling her an athletic and spirited girl.
“A lot of people really liked her,” Maloney said. “She’d light up a room. You can’t not smile after talking to her.”
Maloney smiled remembering Jackie’s love of the sea.
“She is someone that is not afraid to go out and catch a big fish and show everyone,” she said.
Hannah Wannamaker, a 19-year-old UF marine sciences freshman, said she was a cheerleader and a swimmer with Jackie.
“She is so strong, too, and I know she can get through this,” Wannamaker said.
For more than an hour, the event was pierced with moments of uncontrollable sobs.
Brooke sat in a circle of 14 girls near the middle of the field staring at the ground crying as two friends hugged her on each side.
“She was the last person you would ever expect anything to happen to,” said a childhood friend of Jackie’s who wished to remain anonymous.
Family and friends of Jackie selected a 15-minute time slot from 4:30 p.m. Monday to 4:30 p.m. today to pray for her recovery.
The family is offering a $20,000 reward to anyone who comes forward with information that leads to the driver’s arrest and conviction. Tallahassee Police ask that anyone with information call 850-891-4200 or Crime Stoppers at 850-574-8177.
UPDATE: Tallahassee Police have arrested and charged Devon Dwyer, 20, of 225 Cactus St. Tallahassee, Fla. with the hit and run of Jacqueline Faircloth.
[A version of this story ran on 12/2/2014 on page 3 of The Alligator.]