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Blue ribbons serve as support, therapy

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A Franklin student tied a ribbon around a brick column, remembering how his friends called him to go swimming Friday in Edinburgh.

Bruce Pleak is struggling to accept that now one of those friends is dead, and two others are in critical condition at an Indianapolis hospital.

Franklin Community High School opened Sunday evening for students and friends who might want to talk with counselors, but most of the students instead went out in the city to hang blue ribbons. A group of about 25 students — friends and acquaintances of the five teens who went over the dam Friday afternoon — spread out across the city, tying blue ribbons to show support for their friends and their families.

The group bought every spool of blue ribbon from a store Sunday, said Franklin resident Lydia Wales, who helped organize the event. The students began hanging ribbons Sunday evening along U.S. 31 and downtown Franklin as a show of support.

Pleak would have gone with the five teens Friday to the Big Blue River if he wasn’t at his grandparents’ house, and he doesn’t know what might have happened if he did. His five friends all went over the dam and were caught in dangerous, swirling water.

Divers recovered the body of 17-year-old Jason Moran on Sunday morning. Sarah McLevish, 16, and Michael Chadbourne, 16, still were at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital on Sunday night. Seventeen-year-old Trent Crabb and Mark Nally, 18, pulled the two out of the water. All five are Franklin Community High School students.

Their classmates tied ribbons around trees, lamp posts, utility poles and road signs in Franklin, hoping people who see them will take a moment to think about Moran and pray for the recovery of McLevish and Chadbourne, he said.

“I didn’t believe it. I’ve (swam) with them several times,” Pleak said. “I would have been there with them.”

The ribbons will help show the community’s support for the families, but also serve as therapy for the students who have all been surprised by the tragedy, high school principal Doug Harter said.

Students said they still couldn’t believe something so horrible happened to their classmates.

“You see it in the movies, and then it happens in Franklin? No, that doesn’t sound right,” student Margo Parish said.

Moran and his group of friends swam often in the Big Blue River in Edinburgh, but never above the dam like they were Friday, Pleak said. Usually they’d swim near the bridge down the road, a few miles south of the dam, said Pleak and Christian Dickmann, who had both been swimming with the teens before.

Moran’s death still hasn’t sunk in yet, classmate Morgan McCarter said.

She didn’t know Moran well, but he always would say hello and ask how she was doing when they were in class together, she said. He was just that a friendly and outgoing kind of person, she said.

“It hasn’t hit me. When they found Jason, it started to seem more real,” McCarter said.

Acacia Long, another close friend of the teens, helped Pleak tie ribbons at Northwood Plaza. The group’s show of support is something Moran would have done for classmates and their families, Long said.

“You didn’t have to be a best friend to feel close to him. He had happiness that was contagious,” she said.

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