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April 17, 2013

An 'Angels' Mass for Caleigh

Missing toddler remembered one year later

Anthony Harrison carried his daughter Lizzie out through the towering blue doors of Our Lady Good Voyage Monday night, her head resting on his shoulder and her legs, clad in white tights, hanging almost to his knees.

Harrison sniffed, and Lizzie lifted her head, moving a hand to run her fingers across the top of her dad’s buzzed hair.

Then, patting her hand on his back as she laid her head down again, she consoled her father who had, at a church Mass, memorialized his other daughter, Caleigh Harrison, now presumed dead after the then-21/2-year-old disappeared from Rockport’s Long Beach a year ago this Friday.

”Your smile could light up a room, and your personality could make everyone laugh,” Harrison said, as he read aloud from a letter he wrote to Caleigh.

A photo of Caleigh propped in a white basket of flowers and decorated with a bow split the space between two rows of pews to Harrison’s left. The mourning father spoke about how Lizzie misses her sister, and said he encourages the now 5-year-old Elizabeth to talk more about Caleigh as he works, too, on improving himself.

”I must strive to be a better person,” Harrison read, again addressing Caleigh. “A big part of me is missing, and I won’t be whole again until I see you in heaven.”

Those throughout the church slipped out handkerchiefs to wipe stray tears as Harrison folded up the letter.

“Love, Dad,” he concluded.

Anthony Harrison’s parents had arranged the Mass of the Angels for their granddaughter, Caleigh, as the one-year anniversary of her tragic disappearance approached. Antonette and David Harrison Sr. said the service that drew residents to nearly fill the church aimed to celebrate the life of Caleigh, who disappeared while playing on the beach with her mother, Allison Hammond, and sister Elizabeth, then 4, last April 19.

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