MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Thousands gathered Friday morning in the streets of Midtown Memphis to honor slain kindergarten teacher Eliza Fletcher, who was abducted and killed during a morning run in a case that has touched hearts across the nation.

Starting at 4:20 a.m., runners, bikers, and others came together to remember the murdered woman and cope with their own feelings in the aftermath of her death.

They were there to finish Eliza Fletcher’s 8.2-mile run from her Midtown home that was stopped short by her kidnapping last Friday. A portion of Central Avenue in Midtown was closed Friday morning.

It was a sight that brought spectator Michelle Kelly to tears.

“You can’t lose hope. You can never lose hope,” Kelly said. “You know if you lose hope, then what do you have?”

Fletcher was abducted and killed last Friday around 4:20 a.m. as she passed the University of Memphis campus on Central. Those who knew Fletcher described her as “a bright light in our community” known for her love of running and zest for life.

For the mourners who did not know the 34-year-old mother of two, they say Friday’s efforts were a way to stand up for the women in the Mid-South and show they should be able to safely run anywhere, anytime.

Kelly, who is a former runner, says running is not just an exercise, it’s a way of life.

“You want the time of reflection, the time to meditate, the time to be still and quiet, to listen to your heart, and the repetitive slap of your feet against the ground. The sound of your breath moving through your body,” Kelly said.

Eliza Fletcher leaves behind her husband and two small children.

Her funeral is set for Saturday at 10 a.m. at Second Presbyterian Church here in Memphis.

The family requests that memorials be made to the Liza Wellford Fletcher Memorial Fund at St. Mary’s Episcopal School, Christ Methodist Day School, and Second Presbyterian Church.

Her alleged killer, Cleotha Abston, has been in court several times this week on charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping and tampering with evidence. His motive is not known.