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Remembering three friends

Boonsboro High School students mourn loss

Boonsboro High School students mourn loss

December 14, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD and ERIN CUNNINGHAM

BOONSBORO

pepperb@herald-mail.com

erinc@herald-mail.com

Boonsboro High School students wandered the halls Monday in silence, sometimes stopping to hug each other. In the usually rowdy cafeteria, nobody spoke. Some students cried.

On Tuesday, students mourning two classmates and a BHS graduate who died in a fire Sunday began to talk to their teachers and one another. They circulated poems and pictures.

Single roses were scattered throughout the school, taped to lockers along with messages reading, "I'll miss you" and "I love you."A memorial in the school's cafeteria for the deceased drew students throughout the day.

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Principal Martin Green said teachers had trouble keeping students in classes Tuesday, two days after the deaths of seniors Jonathan Barnes, 17, and Michael Abell, 17, and 2005 graduate Brian Daigle, 18, who died in a fire at their friend's Keedysville home.

Brianna Miller, a freshman, said her brother, Matt, who was close with Barnes and Abell, distributed at least 600 copies of a short poem he wrote about the loss of his friends. The poem was also part of the cafeteria memorial.

Katie O'Leary, a sophomore, was friends with the deceased teens and said talking about the loss with her friends Tuesday did help.

"I didn't cry as much today," she said, clutching a copy of The Morning Herald story about her friends' death. "I just can't believe this happened."

O'Leary wrote a letter, which was included in the memorial. The letter, she said, lists many of the things she will remember about her friends.

"It helps to write about it and to talk," she said.

O'Leary and Jordan Young, also a sophomore, both remember a night about two weeks ago when Barnes and a group of friends went to the BHS campus about 11 p.m.

"We were just bored," Young said.

Barnes, and some of the others, began to jump on 3-foot wooden posts that line the school's driveway. There are at least 50 posts, and O'Leary said Barnes wanted to see how far he could go, jumping from post to post.

"He got pretty far," she said.

Carole Barrett, Barnes' mother, said she received dozens of phone calls Tuesday from her son's friends and other parents. By 7 p.m., her cordless phone's battery was losing power.

Barrett said when she and her son and two young daughters moved to the area from Montgomery County about two years ago, he was scared he would have trouble making friends.

"He was so scared he wouldn't be accepted," Barrett said. "I told him, that with his personality, he was going to make friends right away. And he did.

"And for the first time in his life ... the last few years were the happiest times of his life. This is when he went ... during the happiest times."

Barrett said her son enjoyed his friends, his family, laughing and skateboarding.

"He lived for skateboarding," she said.

Barnes was sad to leave his Montgomery County home, his mother said, because he would be leaving a paved driveway for a gravel one where he could not skate.

Barrett said her son has been "chased" out of parks for skateboarding, and once had his skateboard confiscated by the police.

Young said he will remember Barnes' spontaneity and his attitude.

"He was just really good," he said. "He was nice, and happy all the time."

Jessica Kellinger and Annie Meyers, both sophomores, said guidance counselors and some teachers tried to talk with students about the loss of their classmates and friends. Kellinger said some teachers did not hold regular classes, instead allowing students to watch movies or talk about the fire. Other teachers did hold regular classes, but Kellinger said it was difficult to concentrate.

"I think we've allowed a lot more flexibility in the normal procedures of the school day," Green said. "Now we're trying to gain that all back."

He said that the memorial and scrolls students have been signing in memory of the teens will be handed over to their families. A memorial service for the students will not be held at the school, he said.

"It brings closure" for the students to visit the memorial and sign the scrolls, he said. "It gives them something to do."

Two girls who walked past Green in the hallway Tuesday smiled at him. Green said smiles were rare Monday.

About 20 students were gathered in front of the memorial in the cafeteria before lunchtime. A few girls sat on tables and held their faces in their hands. Others circled the crowd with red, tear-strewn faces. A girl carried stacks of newspapers to the tables in front of the memorial.

A group of about five students walked up slowly to the memorial with their heads bowed, as if they were waiting to pay their respects at a funeral.

Green said teenagers generally have difficulty dealing with death.

"When they're kids, they don't understand that we're all mortal. They see death coming to people who have lived all their lives," he said. "They have trouble with the finality of it."

An art room display facing the school's lobby had been cleared except for one drawing, a portrait of Jimi Hendrix, which Abell completed last week.

O'Leary said Abell was "always drawing. He just drew. He was really good, though."

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