9:20 AM PDT, September 24, 2021
A memorial has been created in honor of Gabby Petito, the young woman who has captured the country’s heart after she was found murdered at a Wyoming campsite earlier this week.
Petito’s stepfather, James Schmidt, created a small stone arrangement in the shape of a cross, and left flowers at the Spread Dispersed Campground in Grand Teton National Park, situated above a riverbed where Petito’s remains were found on Sunday, according to the radio station, KGAB.
Family friend Gary Rider told The Independent there had been a larger stone cross created at the site before the family arrived.
Rider expressed gratitude on behalf of the family for all the outpouring of support but spoke of the heartbreak the family has endured.
“The worst fears any parent have been realized with the recovery of Gabby,” he said. “We are devastated and heartbroken.”
Days before her body was found, Rider had created a GoFundMe page to help in the search for Petito that has generated more than $87,000 as of Friday afternoon towards their goal of $100,000.
The area was closed for several days as mourners placed teddy bears, candles, signs, and photos of the young woman whose tragic death touched so many.
People in the North Port, Florida, area and surrounding communities have left flowers, stuffed teddy bears, pictures, and candles outside North Port City Hall to honor and remember the young woman who was described as a “super kind-hearted” and “sweet” person.
At Smoke On The Water, a restaurant in North Carolina where Petito worked as a hostess and in the kitchen between September 2017 and January 2019, before moving to Florida, general manager Lara Witschen told WWAY News3 that Petito “touched so many lives.”
“She was not just a name. She’s not just a case. She was a person and she was very special to a lot of people and many of us here,” Witchsen said.
The restaurant plans to plant a tree in her honor, and also has set up a table in her memory with flowers, photos, and lights, the news outlet said.
And, in Petito’s hometown of Blue Point, Long Island, teal ribbons have been placed all over the small hamlet. And, a billboard with the words: “Gabby Petito, Forever in our hearts,” located at Nicolls Road and Montauk Highway near the Petito family home, The New York Post reported.
Petito’s mother, Nicole Schmidt, chose the teal color because, she said “it reminded her of the color of Gabby’s eyes,” Jennifer McNamara told the news outlet.
McNamara, whose husband was an NYPD firefighter and first responder on September 11, who died of cancer in 2009, organized the ribbon tribute through the non-profit organization, Johnny Mac Foundation, she created in her husband’s honor. Schmidt is also a board member
On Friday, the organization and Bayport and Blue Point communities are planning an intimate candle lighting ceremony in tribute of Petito called, “Shine a Light for Gabby.”
Residents are asked to place a lighted candle at the end of their driveway at 7 p.m., the Post reported.
“We take care of each other in this community,” McNamara said.