Leesburg -- The flag was at half staff Wednesday morning in front of Lee County Middle School.
Inside, students and teachers mourned the loss of 12-year-old Tony Long who was tragically killed in a Tuesday afternoon house fire.
"At first, when you see it on the news, you don't believe anything bad is going to happen to your children. We just knew it would be ok," said Long's 6th-grade teacher, Debbie Hinman.
Today the hallways were filled with shock and disbelief.
Both classmates and teachers remembered the 6th-grader they described as the happy-go-lucky trumpet player with a passion for football and making others laugh.
"The kids all loved him. He could bring a smile around when nothing was there to smile about. Tony could lighten the day. He could make anyone smile," said Carol Kluball, Long's band instructor at LCMS.
"He could make anyone laugh. He knew how to lift someone up," added classmate Madison Daughtry.
Students in Tony's 6th-grade class wrote their goodbyes on a large orange banner. Many of them were still in disbelief that their classmate who wore the number 24 on the football field was no longer with them.
"Unbelievable. I mean they just can't believe it happened. They think they're so invincible and this has just been a shock to them. Some of them have never been exposed to a close death, so they're grieving in different ways," said Hinman.
It was a hard day for students at LCMS coping with the loss of their classmate. From the empty band chair to the now empty locker, the loss of a friend has been heart breaking.
"I was crying. I was really upset," said Daughtry.
While the lesson in this sixth grade classroom was about dealing with the loss of a friend today, the memory of a friend who left too soon, will live in their young hearts, for years tocome.
Tony Long's funeral services haven't yet been scheduled.