Armstrong teen remembered
For many, Halloween is a day of fun. A day to dress up in costume and go out and get some free snacks from the neighbours.
For Armstrong’s Marie Van Diest, today is a day of dread.
It was a year ago today that one of Van Diest’s twin girls, 18-year-old Taylor, was found severely injured near the railway tracks on Rosedale Avenue, the victim of an attack. Taylor died Halloween night in Kelowna General Hospital.
“It’s going to be a difficult day,” said Van Diest Monday morning.
“I can say I can deal with it one way, but the ol’ heart and mind seem to run on their own. I hope I can get through it.”
A candlelight walk will be held in Taylor’s memory tonight starting at 6 p.m. at the Armstrong Spallumcheen Chamber of Commerce. Anybody that wants to take part can do so, and are asked to bring a candle or any sort of illumination.
On Halloween night 2011, Taylor Van Diest left her home around 6 p.m., dressed as a zombie, and was supposed to meet up with friends for a night of Halloween festivities.
When nobody could find her or get a hold of her on her cell phone, a search party went out looking, and found the badly injured teen by the railway tracks.
The incident changed the Van Diest family and the City of Armstrong.
People would no longer go out for walks alone. Any sort of innocence left in the community was shattered.
Slowly, following the arrest of a suspect months after Taylor’s murder, the familiar small-town feeling started to return.
“For the first while I was rather homebound,” said Van Diest. “After the arrest there was just such a huge sigh of relief. People started feeling a little more able to go out for their usual walks with their dog, or walk outside after dark though not alone but feeling a little more comfortable outdoors.
“People will never forget. I hear that on a regular basis. They can’t wrap their heads around what happened.”
Van Diest said comfort shown by family, friends and even complete strangers has helped her tremendously.
“Their compassion, I just can’t say enough about that,” she said. “People have just been amazing. They really couldn’t understand what it’s like to go through such a horrendous ordeal. But it’s nice to know there are people out there willing to get our backs.”
Taylor’s twin, Kirstie, came up with the idea for the Taylor Van Diest Memorial Trail on the west side of the railway between Rosedale Avenue and Pleasant Valley Road.
Tonight’s candlelight walk will go up Pleasant Valley, down Rosedale and then down the permanent memorial trail.
“Kirstie is really quite a shy girl, I’ve been her voice,” said Van Diest.
“We can sit and talk about Taylor in the privacy of our own home. But should anyone ask her about her sister outside her home, she simply can’t talk about it.”
Armstrong Mayor Chris Pieper has called for all residents to light up the night for the town’s young people tonight, leaving every front door light on from dusk to dawn.
“Last year’s incident impacted everyone,” said Pieper. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s never a reason for it, and we learn to live with it but it changes our outlook on the way we all live. We have to be a little more cautious.”
Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP will have a strong presence in Armstrong this evening.
“We’ll have extra officers there,” said spokesperson Gord Molendyk.
“The town is a little bit, I guess, apprehensive because of the homicide. We will have more officers, more traffic police, more vehicles and reservists and Citizens On Patrol in the area.”