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Memorials honor students lost in school tragedies

As the 2000-2001 school year draws to a close, schools arepreparing for exams, graduation and summer break.

While students and faculty reflect on the past year, many arereminded of the tragedies that struck local schools.

Students, teachers and parents gathered early Wednesday morningat West Lincoln Attendance Center to remember four students whodied in accidents.

During the ceremony, a few hundred people gathered around fourBradford pear trees recently planted between the gymnasium andfootball field.

“The trees will be something that will grow and we’ll continueto remember our lost ones,” said Kathi Easley, who came up with theidea and helped organize the event.

Plaques were placed in front of the trees for Jasper Steele,Rebecca Wallace, Justin Barksdale and Derrick Havard.

“Each class raised the money for the classmate or classmatesthey had lost,” said Easley.

Local residents Vonda Laird and Les Jordan sang during theceremony and a local preacher spoke to the crowd about thehardships of losing people. Family members were given cards signedby the class members affected by the deaths.

Since two of the students were seniors, a special ceremony willbe held before commencement exercises.

“We’ve planned on having a poem read and there will be emptyseats left and two memorial candles will be lit,” said seniorsponsor Sounnia Wallace, adding that scholarships will also begiven in memory of the two students who would have graduated thisyear.

She hopes the memorial ceremonies will assist in the healingprocess for the whole community.

Members of the West Lincoln community not only had to deal withthe loss of students at their school this year, but also atneighboring Bogue Chitto Attendance Center.

Earlier in the year, members of the Bogue Chitto community helda memorial service for Traci Sasser, Zachary Dunaway and ChuckIngle.

During the service, their classmates were able to share storieswith the families, friends and faculty members. Bogue Chittostudents also put together a slide show with pictures of Sasser,Dunaway and Ingle growing up.

Since the memorial service, donations have been used to create abeautiful courtyard area in memory of the students.

Principal Bobby Allen says the area has become a nice place forstudents to reminisce and remember all the happy times they sharedwith their friends who have passed away.

“We don’t want it to be a reminder of their death, we want it tobe a reminder of their lives and the wonderful things they did atthe school,” said Allen of the students who were very involved inschool activities.

Since all three would have been seniors next year, Allen said aspecial ceremony will be planned for next year’s graduation.

Sixth grade students at Brookhaven Academy honored their lostclassmate, Josh Thurman, by raising money and donating it to theCatch-A-Dream program, where children with life-threatening diseaseget to participate in outdoor activities.

Lawrence County High School sophomores Jacob Young andChristiana Sibley, who passed away during the school year, will beremembered with a plaque in the school.

Lawrence County Junior High student Neal Ballard and New Hebronkindergarten student Kaylan Reddick were also remembered during thepast school year.

A memorial service was also held earlier this year for Rodrick”Rod” Wells, who died in an accident on his way to Franklin CountyHigh School on the first full day of school.

“We retired his jersey and presented it to his mother during aceremony as well,” said Principal M.D. Bilbo, of the starbasketball player.

Another special ceremony will be held during this year’sgraduation for the lost senior.