ANDOVER — Two dozen pink balloons swayed in the cool evening air, held aloft by the members of two different teams from two different towns who stood as one around the circle in the middle of the field.
As the members of the Danvers and Andover varsity field hockey teams stood silently under the lights of Lovely Field last night, Danvers’ first-year head coach Jill McGinnity read a moving tribute to Colleen Ritzer, the Andover woman who was murdered Tuesday at Danvers High School, allegedly by one of her students.
“Hello, everybody,” she said over the loudspeaker, taking the microphone in the press box from longtime Andover High School sports announcer Bill Drummond. “I’m going to try to do this without getting too emotional.”
Her voice cracked as she spoke about Ritzer, who taught many of the girls on the Danvers field hockey team. Ritzer’s brother, Dan, and sister, Laura, a senior at Andover High School, stood in the stands and watched as the event unfolded.
“This is a perfect setting to remember a sister, a daughter, a teacher and a friend,” McGinnity said. “Colleen had a huge and positive effect on everyone. Let’s pay her memory forward and live by her words: ‘Be kind, smile and find the good in every day.’”
Her words brought tears to most of the 100 or so people in the stands and on the field.
“Let’s have a moment of silence as the players release the balloons in honor of a beautiful person,” she said. After a few moments, she said, “Here’s to you, Miss Ritzer. You may release the balloons.”
They rose into the night sky, trailing their strings behind them, as if in slow motion. Everyone stood quietly and watched as they disappeared into the darkness.
Drummond, who taught math to Ritzer while she was a student at Andover High School, took the microphone next.