Thursday, January 23, 2014
Memorial service draws hundreds To Oxford
Media, coaches, and fellow skaters pack church
by Loretta Winston
Hundreds of people packed the First Baptist Church and its grounds on Van Buren Avenue in Oxford Wednesday afternoon for the memorial service for Cameron and Caitlin Maxwell.
Officials said it was one of the largest funerals they had ever seen, comparable only to the funeral of John Carl Snyder, the famous University of Mississippi football star who later served in the U.S. Senate for eight terms and was buried in Oxford in July of 1991.
Traffic at that funeral was so heavy that the city closed down a section of the downtown area to help accommodate the hundreds of cars. Like Snyder's funeral, the Maxwell service drew hundreds from around the country, and city officials were forced to close three streets surrounding the church.
The church, which seats 300, was filled an hour before the 2 p.m. service. Sheriff's deputies kept the overflow of people on the side church yard during the service, where they stood in silence or talked quietly among themselves. Inside the church, a sea of flowers covered the podium, the nave and stretched down both aisles.
Cameron and Caitlin Maxwell, who were members of First Baptist Church and active in the youth program, were buried in identical bronze coffins. They were also buried wearing ice skates, their father Todd Maxwell said.
Maxwell gave a short speech about his children while fighting back tears, in which he talked of "their relentless desire to be the best in the world," and how their fire rejuvenated his own life and that of his wife Robin and their other son Austin. Dr. Tommy Sanders, the minister of First Baptist, delivered a moving eulogy for the Maxwells that spoke of their strong Christian faith.
News media, including camera crews from several national news magazines, camped outside the church before and after the funeral, speaking to local and visiting luminaries and other mourners.
In addition to various media, a number of past and present Olympic skaters attended the service. They expressed the feelings of many in the skating world, saying that two great and beautiful talents had been lost. Even the White House found a moment to send a wreath to the church with a letter for Todd, Robin and Austin Maxwell.
Immediately following the service, friends paid tribute to the slain skaters outside the church.
"Caitlin was the best friend anyone could want," said Maggie Jenkins. "She always tried not to hurt anyone's feelings and tried to be the best person she could be. I don't know what I'm going to do without her."
"Cameron was completely dedicated to skating, Tania Hotchkiss told reporters. "He sacrificed so much—a social life, hobbies, going to school like a regular kid—all to focus on skating. I just can't understand why this happened."
The Maxwells were buried in the family plot at First Baptist. The family requests that any memorials be made to the First Baptist Church youth program.