Franklin students and residents dealing with grief after the death of one student and fear as two others were critically injured have found their high school is a place to meet, ask tough questions or simply reminisce.
Hours after five Franklin students were swept over the Big Blue River dam in Edinburgh, hundreds of students and residents gathered at the football stadium at Franklin Community High School to pray and show support.
Three of the students were pulled under the fast-moving water. Two of them, Michael Chadbourne and Sarah McLevish, have been in critical condition at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis since Friday afternoon. The third, Jason Moran, drowned.
On Saturday, as dozens of rescue personnel searched for Moran, Franklin had counselors available for students to talk to. On Sunday, after Moran’s body was found at the base of the dam, the high school was opened again so students had a place to meet, talk and make ribbons to spread across the city as a sign of support for their friends.
On Wednesday, the community can meet at the high school again to remember Moran during a memorial service.
Franklin officials don’t believe that their job supporting, encouraging and helping students during difficult times ends after the school year, high school Principal Doug Harter said. That’s why administrators and counselors have been opening the school for students who wanted to talk about what had happened with their classmates and looking for ways to support the families of all five teens.
Harter and other administrators have spoken regularly with the teens’ families since Friday, and each day they consider what they can do to provide additional help.
“We want to help out,” Harter said. “We’re in the kid business. So when kids are suffering and kids are in need, people are going to jump in and provide that support and services that are needed.”
The high school will host a public memorial service for Moran on Wednesday and a private funeral for the family Thursday. School officials have set up a fund to which people
can contribute to help Moran’s family pay for funeral expenses and to help the families of Chadbourne and McLevish pay for medical expenses.
School officials will consider how to provide additional aid to the families and for students who know Moran, Chadbourne and McLevish as the summer progresses, Harter said.
“We will be ready to provide whatever services that are needed,” Harter said.
Since Friday, Franklin students and residents have been looking for ways to show support for the three teens and for Trent Crabb and Mark Nally, who were able to get out uninjured.
More than 400 people attended Friday night’s prayer vigil. Some members of the crowd knew the teens well, while others wanted to meet and pray about what happened. People have been using hashtags on Twitter and Facebook — such as #Pray4Franklin, #FightJMoneyFresh, #Pray4Sarah and #Pray4Chaddy — to share photos and memories of Moran, Chadbourne and McLevish.
About 25 people who knew the teens met at the high school Sunday to talk and to create blue ribbons that they then put up along U.S. 31 and in downtown Franklin in honor of their friends.
Students will have a chance to meet again today at the high school and to make ribbons that can be passed out and worn at Wednesday’s memorial, Harter said.
“That will be another way for students to feel like they’re a part of doing something,” Harter said.