For local kayakers, it was a chance to return to the water and remember a friend they lost Thursday.
“Today, we celebrate Shannon,” said one of the kayakers in the crowd, who met at Overlook 3 in Great Falls Park.
Shannon Christy, 23, drowned after her kayak overturned in the Potomac River Thursday.
“First time I saw her, she just had this gigantic smile on her face,” said Ray Kessler, who met Christy the day before the accident.
They had gone kayaking together.
On Thursday, Kessler was on his way to the falls to get some practice before Sunday’s scheduled race, when he received a call from a friend.
The news wasn’t good. A kayaker was missing.
“The recovery was well underway when we got here and we got down and we assisted in any way that we could,” Kessler. “Everyone is still in shock. I mean, it was incredible sad and incredibly difficult for everyone.”
Today’s memorial is a testament to the strength of the kayaking community, Kessler said.
The turnout was more than he expected.
“We love kayaking and that’s why we continue to do it so that’s where people feel most comfortable and that’s where they feel they can get their emotions out so they’re out on the water and they’re out doing what they love,” he said.
“They are like family to each other,” said Thelma Triche, who was there with her husband Tom Calhoun.
The Bethesda couple was there support her son, Geoff Calhoun, who does competitive kayaking.
“We haven’t seen our son quite as devastated as we saw him in the last couple days,” Triche said.
“He won’t say very much. It’s very hard for him to talk about it,” Tom Calhoun said.
While ABC 7 talked to the couple, their son was on his kayak, fighting the raging waters and paying respect to Christy, who died doing what she loved.
“As the weeks and the months go on, we’re still going to be thinking about her and it’s going to start to hit us more and more,” Kessler said.