Letter: Thanks to all who helped celebrate Philando Castile at J.J. Hill

I would like to thank everyone who came out to celebrate the life of Philando “Mr. Phil” Castile with the J.J. Hill Community on July 10.

It was an event for families and students to grieve and comfort each other, and it was also a place to talk to our children about the issues we face right now as a society. I was planning on maybe 30 to 50 school community families and staff coming out, but nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. Our small community vigil gained national media attention and grew to more than 3,000 people.

I am heartened that the community kept the event peaceful and focused on the man who affected J.J. Hill in a positive and memorable way.

There are too many people to thank individually in a letter, but there are a few people who helped prepare me for what was to come. I reached out to a few friends and some people I have never met, who gave me sound advice and stepped up to help.

I am forever grateful to my wife, Mollie Reid Fragnito, Rep. Erin Murphy, Paul Winkelaar, Jeff Bauer, Atom Robinson, Chris Crutchfield, Andrew Collins, Sharon Freeman, Mr. Bill and Mr. Gary from J.J. Hill, Zuki Ellis, Rashad Turner, Charlie Foust, Anna Gaarnas and Beth Jackson. You all helped with logistics, and most important, gave me the voice I didn’t know I had.

I also want to thank the St. Paul Police Department and St. Paul Public Schools for the help they provided with the vigil.

Finally, thank you to the family of Philando Castile. You showed great strength and courage. “Mr. Phil” will be forever missed at J.J. Hill.

Tony Fragnito, past PTO chair at J.J. Hill and Como Park resident

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