By Justin Wier
Susan Dieter-Robinson said there is no recovering from the day she lost her daughters, Anna and Abigail.
“There’s never going to be a day when I wake up and say, ‘I’m so glad I got through that,’” she said.
In October 2013, her daughters were struck by a car while playing in the front yard of the family’s Oregon home. Anna was 6, and Abigail was 11.
A few months later, she remembered a project the family did for her wedding. They pasted fabric hearts onto river rocks and provided two to each guest – one to take home and one to write on and leave for the bride and groom.
On Valentine’s Day after the loss of her daughters, she decided to make these “love rocks” for her daughter’s friends. One of the girls said it was her favorite Valentine, and when she held it in her hand, she felt like she was holding Anna’s hand.
“That’s the moment I knew,” Dieter-Robinson said. “That was the pivotal moment when I got that slap on the head saying, ‘This is what you need to do.’”
Since then, love rocks have become something of a phenomenon. Dieter-Robinson manages a blog and Facebook page, and she’s traveled as far as Africa to share her story and show children how to make their own rocks. Love rocks have been to all seven continents. They’ve been on the Great Wall of China and in the Eiffel Tower in France.
On Thursday, love rocks came to Martin Luther King Elementary School in Youngstown. Dieter-Robinson is a 1991 graduate of Canfield High School, and she still comes through the area to visit family. While visiting this week, she shared her experiences with the students and helped them make their own rocks.
She said she is sharing a message of love and joy.
“You have choices,” she said. “I could fill my world with hate and anger and bitterness because I have a right to be hateful and angry and bitter, or I could choose love. I chose love. This is an example of what happens when you choose love.”
She said the rocks resonate with children who might struggle with an abstract concept such as love, especially children who have never felt love.
“It’s a tangible gesture,” she said. “It’s something you can hold on to.”
While Dieter-Robinson said she is sad 100 percent of the time, love rocks have been one of few positives to stem from the terrible tragedy her family experienced.
“There’s a process you go through, and the journey of grief is everlasting,” she said. “This helps us through that.”
The rocks also allow people to associate her daughters with happy thoughts, not the worst moment in their lives.
MLK fifth-grader Zallayah Johnson said she is going to keep one of the two rocks she made and take pictures of it when she travels around the world. She has other plans for the second rock.
“I’m going to give it to a girl I know because she is suffering from cancer right now and is in the hospital,” she said.
Michelle Walsh, who teaches literacy at the school, brought Dieter-Robinson in to speak to the children. She said the messages of joy, love and forgiveness are important ones for kids to learn.
“I feel like our job is not just to educate kids academically,” Walsh said. “Our job is also to educate kids socially.”