Students and staffers at Lexington's Bryan Station Middle School supported each other Thursday in their grief over the death of sixth-grader Payton Griffith, who was struck by a car while crossing the street in a crosswalk.
Principal Lester Diaz, visibly struggling to keep his emotions in check, said the entire school was "devastated."
"Payton was a beautiful child," he said. "She was a straight-A student.
"She loved to read, but her favorite subject was math. She was on our volleyball team. One of her favorite hobbies was playing with her dog. She wanted to be a school teacher.
"We would all be lucky to have a child like Payton," he said.
Payton, who recently turned 12, died Wednesday afternoon at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital, shortly after being struck by a car about 4:20 p.m. at Auburn Drive and Eastland Parkway in northeast Lexington.
Police said the female driver who struck her stated that her vision was impaired by late-afternoon sun.
Diaz said the child's death touched everyone at Bryan Station Middle School, which has 547 students. Payton's older sister and three of her cousins attend the school, he said.
"So everybody has a tie in some way, shape or form to this young child," Diaz said. "And even the kids that don't know her that well ... they understand."
Fayette County Public Schools sent grief counselors and additional staff to Bryan Station Middle School on Thursday to provide support. The district also dispatched assistance to Dixie Elementary School, which Payton attended last year, and to Crawford Middle School, which some of her former classmates attend.
Some other Fayette schools sent food to Bryan Station Middle, or dispatched some of their own staff to handle routine work while Bryan Station Middle staffers shared their grief.
Some students at the school wore the number "24." Diaz said that was Payton's volleyball uniform number. Others wore strips of pink and black ribbon — handed out by the volleyball team — in her memory.
Diaz wasn't wearing one of the ribbons.
"I gave mine to a kid," he said.
All over the school, students were writing personal letters to Payton's family, putting up banners, and making cards and posters in honor of their classmate, Diaz said.
"You don't expect 11-, 12- and 13-year-olds to be as mature as they've been today," he said.
Diaz said Bryan Station Middle will try to get back to something like a normal routine as part of the healing process. But he said that wouldn't begin until Friday.
"Today, it's out of the question," he said. "We are all devastated; we are all suffering and grieving."
According to police, the car was turning left from Eastland Parkway onto Auburn when it hit the girl.
Police have not released the driver's name, but they said she was alone in the car.
The child was in the crosswalk at the time, police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said Thursday.
No charges have been filed, Roberts said. An investigation is continuing.
Payton McKenna Griffith was a daughter of Chris and Rose Griffith of Lexington. She is also survived by two sisters, Kristen and Brooklyn Griffith; her paternal grandmother, Shelia Griffith of Lexington; and her paternal great-grandmother, Mary Griffith of Lexington.
Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Monday at the Kerr Brothers Funeral Home, 463 East Main Street in Lexington. Burial will be at Boonesboro Cemetery.
Visitation will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday at the funeral home.
Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255.