Community grieves death of 2 -year-old Tampa boy - WFLA News Channel 8

Community grieves death of 2-year-old Tampa boy

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The mother and father of Armani Pierce embrace during a memorial in Armani's honor. The mother and father of Armani Pierce embrace during a memorial in Armani's honor.
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

An entire community is grieving the death of 2-year-old Armani Pierce. The toddler drowned Tuesday night in the Hillsborough River after his mother lost sight of him for just a moment.

Tearing and barely getting her words out, his mother talked at a memorial at the park where her son lost his life.

"I just want to say, thank everybody for coming out.  I'm alright," said Alicia Sanders.

Standing next to Armani's father and clutching her son's clothes and a pair of little shoes, Alicia Sanders cried as she spoke to the crowd of several hundred, who came to the Temple Crest Park. 

"We love Armani. He's still here with us. He's right here in our heart. He's in our minds and our soul. And we just love him," said Sanders.

Tuesday night, Armani Pierce slipped out of sight after a Tampa Bay Ravens football practice. Police and an army of volunteers spent hours looking for him. It wasn't until Wednesday morning, when a police dog honed in on an area covered with algae, that the Tampa Police dive team found his body.

Near the spot where divers found Armani, hundreds gathered to pray, sign a card with his picture, light candles and start a waterside memorial.

His family thanked the searchers.

"We just wanted this 2-year-old child found, rather it was my child, your child, my grandson, it didn't matter. We just wanted this child found," said Carlos Pierce Sr., the boy's grandfather.

Armani's mother lit a floating candle. Others honored him by pouring juice into the river. And three young men jumped into the murky water.

A celebration of Armani's life, a public event for a private grief no parent should have to endure.

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