— -- More than 700 teachers and staff members from Charlottesville, Virginia, public schools broke into song Tuesday at a back-to-school convocation just days after protests and deadly violence shook their city.
The school officials sang “Lean On Me” and held glow sticks to symbolize light coming from darkness during the convocation at the Martin Luther King Jr. Performing Arts Center at Charlottesville High School.
“It was emotional,” Rachel Wilson, a photography teacher at the high school who posted video of the moment on Facebook, told ABC News. “We’re all still kind of processing what happened here and figuring out how to help our students process it and also continue on with what we need to do as educators.”
The convocation was planned before the protests at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville on Saturday, according to Beth Cheuk, the community relations liaison for Charlottesville City Schools.
The tone of the event -- which was held on teachers’ first day back for the new school year -- was changed on Monday after a meeting among district officials and school principals.
“They were very emotional as they came together for the first time after the news [and] realized they needed an event where they could meet people where they were,” Cheuk told ABC News.
One woman was killed in the protests -- local resident Heather Heyer -- while two officers -- Virginia State Police Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates -- died in a helicopter crash while responding to the violence. The three were honored at the convocation by a display of three heart shapes made out of glow sticks on seats in the auditorium.
Charlottesville City Schools will hold its first day of classes on Aug. 23.