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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

School grieves over student deaths

Monday, November 19, 2007

Flowered crosses and a wreath were placed in front of the Northview High School student and staff memorial in honor of Brandee N. Siples and Justin W. Snow. The two students died in separate car accidents this past weekend.
Students arrived at school Monday with somber attitudes and looking for support from each other to deal with the deaths of Brandee Siples and Justin Snow, according to Northview High School officials.

Don Harrison, the director of guidance at Northview, said some students were visibly "struggling with their emotions" when school began Monday.

"We started this weekend, as soon as we heard that we lost a student, and counselors got together and we talked about our plan. The plan was to have the auditorium open when we got to school, to have area clergy and youth pastors there to help us, to provide a place for students to go to share their memories, to share their grief, to recall good times as well as this awful bad time, and to begin dealing with this awful issue," Harrison said.

Students gathered in the auditorium to talk with each other, share memories and pictures of the two students.

"We're allowing them to talk amongst themselves, to share things, to recall events and often they're humorous events. Through the tears, they are still able to laugh and to remember the good times," Harrison said.

Northview principal Tim Rayle said the kids are going through the "normal grieving process, kids are very respectful to what the situation is, they've been respectful to the friends and families of the victims. It's pretty somber in our hallways today; we've lost two great kids."

"It's just the age-old question of why. And as counselors, that's the hardest question we can answer, and we don't have that answer. Nobody will ever know except for a few people that were involved and that's it," guidance counselor Scott McDonald said.

"I think the issue (is) helping them continue on down the road of life for themselves in a positive way, but not forgetting students who have passed," Harrison said.

The faculty and staff of Northview will not quickly forget this weekend's events, either.

"They were students that I saw typically everyday in the hallways, and in the auto shop. Brandee was one who always had a smile on her face who I can't remember her ever missing a day of school. Just good kids," Rayle said.

McDonald assisted in grief counseling, and said the students will continue to go through the grieving process for a while.

"Basically what we're looking at is first students are going to deny it, 'It's not true.' And then they're angry about why it happened and who was the cause and things like that. As they meet together as a group, they start to make plans on what (they) can do to help the family, and the kids were doing that today. They were talking about taking up a collection, they were talking about various things they can do to help the families," McDonald said.

Flowers and a wreath were placed outside of the school at a monument honoring past students and staff who have passed away, and posters were signed for family members.

Dealing with the deaths of Siples and Snow will be difficult for the entire school, but adjusting to life after the crash for those involved will require even more care.

Gerald "J.J." Bramer was a passenger in Snow's vehicle, and is currently still hospitalized.

"J.J.'s mother called the school this morning to say how much they appreciate the cards, the phone calls and the prayers they received this weekend," Harrison said.

Justin White, whose truck collided with Snow, returned to school Monday, although understandably emotional.

"Justin and I already are talking this afternoon. There will be some kids that blame him for everything's that happened, there are going to be kids that are supportive of him. The main thing is making sure he's comfortable give him a chance to talk when he's ready, and right now he's having a real hard time," McDonald said.

McDonald also said White, who is on the Northview basketball team, received a visit from his teammates on Sunday, and Coach Mitch Lancaster has been in touch with White's family.

"They took him out to eat and they took him deer hunting, trying to return his life to as normal as possible," McDonald said.

Returning to normal will take time at Northview.

"There's a slight change for a little while, and after a while kids go back to what they were doing before. The atmosphere changes a little bit. Lunchtime was real quiet today; usually it's a quiet roar. As time goes on, it goes back to normal," McDonald said.

"It's so easy for all people, regardless if you're teenagers or not, something happens and it changes us for a little while, but if you're not careful, you go right back to the way it was before. And, you have to hope that our kids will come away from this remembering this a little longer than that," Harrison said.

"Life is precious. Do all we can for each other while we're here. It's something that, every year at the beginning of school, I always tell our kids 'Do something nice for somebody you don't know today.' I hope what we take from this is that at anytime life can be taken from us, to treat each other with respect and do something nice," Rayle said.

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