Thousands of mourners gathered Friday morning to honor the woman who lived and died looking after the academic and spiritual lives of three generations of students at Episcopal School of Jacksonville.
"In an act of unspeakable violence, our beloved Dale Regan was taken from us," the Rev. Kate Moorehead told those gathered in the school's Campion Courtyard not far from the office where a teacher Regan had just fired shot and killed her, then himself on Tuesday.
IMAGES: Mourners honor educator's life
"It was a moment of great darkness of all of us, and we will never be the same," Moorehead said. "This school was founded on the principal that God will make new life out of the worst kinds of darkness."
Regan often used river rocks as a metaphor for steps along the path of life when talking to the sixth-through-12th-grade students in her charge.
Each mourner was given a hand-painted river rock as a remembrance of Regan.
"This is the third day. This is the day of Dale’s resurrection," Moorehead said. "Dale, I’m going to hold onto my river rock until I see your face again."
Regan, 63, had been at Episcopal for 34 years, teaching English and working in the guidance office before becoming head of school seven years ago.
"For 34 years we have loved you, and we long to see your face," Moorehead said. "Your love will continue on, in this place, and it will bless us we will be changed for the better."
Friday's service was open to the public. In addition to faculty, current students and alumni, community leaders including Mayor Alvin Brown attended the service.
When inviting people to communion Moorehead asked people who were not baptized Christians or who had different or no faith traditions to cross their arms over their chest and receive a blessing from the priest.
"It can't hurt, can it?" she asked.
After the service, priests were to walk the entire campus and sprinkle holy water in every classroom at the school.
The school closed after Tuesday's murder-suicide and will not reopen until March 19, in part because spring break had previously been scheduled for the week of March 12. School officials provided grief counseling on campus on Wednesday and Thursday.