To Harleston Village resident Adryn Sumner, it was only fitting that a magnolia tree be planted in Cannon Park to honor an 11-year-old Danish girl fatally struck by a car earlier this month.
Sumner had started brainstorming plans for the tree just hours after the July 9 crash at the park where her 5-year-old son often plays. On Monday, she choked up during a ceremony dedicating the small magnolia to Selma Akguel.
The tree, donated by the city, will display white flowers that represent the young victim's innocence, she said. It will also serve as a permanent reminder of Selma's family, who were visiting on vacation from Middelfart, Denmark, at the time of the wreck and now will "forever be linked to Charleston."
"This tree is going to grow big and beautiful. If they should ever come back, they can see it," said Sumner, whose husband was one of the first people at the crash scene.
Police said Selma was walking on the sidewalk near the intersection of Calhoun Street and Rutledge Avenue with her parents and two brothers when an SUV hit her. The vehicle then continued through the park, stopping after it struck a tree.
Police have charged the driver, 30-year-old Jeffrey William Wakefield, with felony DUI and reckless homicide.
Speaking at Monday's ceremony, Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds and Mayor John Tecklenburg expressed condolences for Selma's family and denounced the crash as a preventable and "inexcusable" tragedy.
Keith Bradshaw of Charleston thought of his own 11-year-old daughter while attending the ceremony that included prayer and song. He said he struggled to imagine the pain the Akguel family must be suffering.
"I will be watching this tree for the rest of my life," he said, "every time I drive by here."
Bradshaw added that he'll look for the tree's growth. He took out his cellphone and snapped a photo of the magnolia before heading home.