STANLEY, N.C. -- Hundreds of students, teachers and law enforcement officers gathered in Stanley on Wednesday afternoon to honor the memory of Springfield Elementary's school resource officer.

Stanley Police Officer Jim Abernethy died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 47-years-old.

Students, including Abby Wolfe, a first-grader, participated in a moment of silence and released balloons for Officer Abernethy.

"He would smile and show us love," Wolfe said. "All the balloons that the kids released went up to heaven to Jim Abernethy."

Officer Abernethy's family attended the event; his brother, John Abernethy, said the ceremony was touching.

"He loved to take pictures," Abernethy said. "I just held my mom, basically, and we just shared a moment."

The Stanley Police Department is in the process of looking for a new officer for the school.