White balloons drifted into the mid-day sky at Alexander City Park Saturday. On each balloon was a message written by a friend, a family member, a resident of the city or simply by someone who had been touched by the tragic deaths of Kevin Ives and Don Henry on August 23, 1987.
“Gone but not forgotten” was a common theme among the hundreds of balloons that drifted into the sun like pearls to heaven.
The balloon release was part of a ceremony for a bench dedicated to the two young men whose deaths on a nearby railroad track 25 years ago remains unsolved.
On this day, the crowd came to celebrate the lives of Ives and Henry. The circumstances of their deaths and the lingering questions about what really happened that night were matters to discuss at another time and place.
The idea for the bench was first suggested by Alexander City Alderman Farren Wadley who knew Ives and Henry growing up in Saline County. Wadley proposed the idea to the Alexander City Council and Mayor Paul Mitchell. The idea gained momentum. Pinecrest Funeral Home donated the bench to the city as well as the required engraving and landscape labor.
On Saturday, Linda Ives, mother of Kevin, and Curtis Henry, father of Don, told the crowd gathered that each appreciated the way the city had embraced their children.
As a prayer was being said during the ceremony, the whistle of a train could be heard drawing closer and closer to the park. The noise grew louder and the prayer was stopped. The train continued its slow run along the nearby tracks.
On cue, the balloons were released. Eyes were filled with tears. One person in the crowd said, “That train going by was our babies letting us know they are still here.”