Purple, silver and white balloons were handed out to the nearly 100 people gathered outside of Seymour High School.

Markers were passed around, giving people a chance to write a message on their balloon.

Following a couple of short prayers, a countdown was conducted before the balloons were released and slowly floated toward the sky.

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It remained silent for a few minutes until some people sang a verse of “Amazing Grace.”

Then a line formed in front of Evens Cribs, and people hugged him and shared condolences.

Early Wednesday morning, his 19-year-old brother, Nikson Cribs, died in a two-vehicle wreck on Interstate 65 near the Jackson-Bartholomew county line.

Nikson Cribs had met all of his graduation requirements earlier this school year and was expected to receive his diploma in early June.

Evens Cribs, a junior at Seymour High School, said he and his family were overwhelmed with the amount of people who showed up to Saturday’s balloon release.

“We’re just thankful for this community that rallied behind us, a lot of support,” Evens said. “No one would expect this, but it’s just amazing how everyone comes together.”

Those who hugged and consoled Evens and his family said they were sorry for their loss and used words that described Nikson, including “loving” and “happy.”

“He was such a loving person, always happy,” Evens Cribs said. “He was never negative, always positive, always laughing. Whenever you would come to him with bad news, he would just come back with a positive response.”

The Cribs brothers came to Seymour from Florida in 2013. Both of them grew up participating in sports, and they continued that at Seymour High School.

Nikson Cribs was on the football team for three years and also participated in track and field, while Evens Cribs is on the football and basketball teams and picked up track and field this year.

“We always used to play football in Florida,” Evens Cribs said. “Coming here, we knew it was going to be the same thing. I remember some nights, (Nikson) would be outside — we live across from the Sixth Grade Center — and he would just go to the field at night, no lights, and he would just be working.”

After basketball games, if Seymour lost, Nikson Cribs was the first one to provide positive words.

“If a basketball game didn’t go the way we wanted, he would be like, ‘All right, boys, get back at it and win the next one,’” Evens Cribs said. “You could never complain to him because he would always just make you feel better.”

Evens Cribs said he looked up to his older brother.

“He’s my biggest role model,” he said. “Last year, he ran track, so this year, I ran track. He used to lift in Florida and tried to get big, and I try to do the same thing. I used to always just follow in his footsteps.”

When people think of Nikson Cribs, his brother wants them to think of his loving spirit.

“He wouldn’t want everybody crying right now,” Evens Cribs said. “You grieve right now because you’re going to miss him, but in the big scheme of things, he wouldn’t want that. He would want everybody to be happy.”

Nikson Cribs’ girlfriend, Ariel Bassard, echoed those thoughts.

“He always made sure that I was always happy, no matter what,” she said.

Bassard and her parents, Kathy and Paul Zumhingst, helped organize Saturday’s balloon release. Before it started, Bassard placed three red buckets on the sidewalk in case people wanted to donate money to the Cribs family.

Immediately, people began dropping money into the buckets.

The Cribs family also had created an online GoFundMe page with a goal of raising $5,000, and that was achieved in about a day or so.

“Raising money, it just makes me really happy to know how many people care and how easy it is for people to come together when something like this happens,” Bassard said.

Bassard and her parents were glad to see so many people attend the balloon release.

“It’s hard when a classmate and somebody that’s so fondly thought of that this happens. It’s just tragic,” Kathy Zumhingst said. “You saw the turnout today, and that just represents how much people thought of him. He was an awesome football player, he was great at track and he was just an easy, fun-loving guy.”

Football teammates of the Cribs brothers and athletes from other Seymour teams were among those attending the event.

One of them was Dalton Miller, a junior at Seymour High School who played football with the Cribs brothers. On Wednesday, he shared his thoughts on Facebook about Nikson Cribs’ death.

“R.I.P. to one of my brothers that fought beside me on that football field in practice and on Friday nights and the one who has provided endless memories for me,” Miller wrote. “You made me a better player, and having you as a friend was something I will never forget. Seems like the people that you would least expect to be gone so soon are the ones that are taken from us. Great football player and a great friend. You will be missed No. 40.”

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.