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Huge crowds mourn Auburn trees after Toomer's Oaks poisoned

Harvey Updyke
(AP Photo/Auburn Public Safety Department)
Huge crowds mourn Auburn trees after Toomer's Oaks poisoned
Harvey Updyke
(AP Photo/Auburn Public Safety Department)

(CBS/WRBL) AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn University student Erin St. John said originally she wanted to organize a small event with her closest friends when she posted a call for a "tree hug" at Toomer's Corner on Facebook Wednesday. She said the plan was to all gather and say goodbye to the trees, which officials say have been poisoned.

The event quickly went viral and by Saturday morning St. John said more than 8,000 people replied to the event on Facebook, reports CBS affiliate WRBL.

St. John said, "I want people to come out and just share memories of the trees. Share memories of coming out here and rolling Toomer's. Just to be together and just cherish the time that we have with these trees."

The plans for a "tree hug" changed when the trees received an extra layer of protection as barricades were put up Friday to keep people out.

Fans gathered from all over Alabama to bid farewell to an Auburn tradition. Walter Shell said, "When we heard about the poisoning of the trees we decided to come down and make some pictures of it. Sadly, I hate to say it could be the last time we see the trees. So I guess we kind of came to say goodbye."

Auburn fans are not alone is mourning the loss. One Alabama fan decided to join the in, while representing his team. Sean Phillips said, "To me it wouldn't be as much of a statement for an apology if I just wore a cap. You know? I wanted to be a little bold and show that I'm really here to support and not to put anybody down."

St. John said she thinks this event helps keep the Auburn spirit alive. As of Saturday she said she has no plans for any other events.

Harvey Updyke Jr., a 62-year-old unemployed man, was released from custody Friday evening on a $50,000 bond. He has been charged with criminal mischief in the first degree in the poisoning of the 130-year-old landmark trees. 

Click here for complete coverage of the Tooomer's Oaks poisoning.