Students remember slain classmates
One day after a teen gunman pleaded guilty in the deadly school shooting, students marked the one-year anniversary Wednesday with hugs, supportive messages and a somber march through town.
The march by Chardon High School students, walking arm-in-arm in the damp cold from the school to the town square, was an emotional highlight during the day’s commemoration.
Photos of the three slain students were displayed, onlookers applauded marchers and firefighters hung a large American flag from an aerial ladder.
The march ended at the courthouse where the shooter, T.J. Lane, 18, had pleaded guilty Tuesday to all charges. Lane could face life in prison at his sentencing March 19.
The observance honored Daniel Parmertor and Demetrius Hewlin, both 16, and Russell King Jr., 17, who were killed in the rampage Feb. 27, 2012. Three others were injured.
Students arriving for classes passed an outdoor school sign with the names of the victims and the message: “2-27 A Day of Remembrance.” Across the street, a heart-shaped sign in the school colors of red and black had the message: “One Heartbeat.”
In Columbus, the Ohio House observed a moment of silence. Rep. John Patterson, who represents Chardon, said he planned to introduce a bill to designate highways in the names of the three victims.
Patterson told his colleagues they couldn’t control tragedies or fully prevent them. And the Jefferson Democrat encouraged parents to tell their children they love them.
The anniversary of the student deaths marks another year of mass shootings around the country — 12 people gunned down at a Colorado movie theater, six killed at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin and 26 Connecticut first-graders and educators slain in Newtown during the Christmas season.
The march in Chardon rekindled memories of the walk taken along the same route by grieving students as they returned to classes three days after the shooting.
A senior student leader, Jessica Mysyk, said the past year has been a time of emotional healing.
“It was hard to even imagine setting foot back into the building where such a tragedy occurred,” she told classmates gathered in the square.
Another senior leader, Will Porter, said nothing satisfactorily explains the violent attack.
“There are no explanations I can give that can help any of us understand,” he said.
Prosecutors say Lane took a .22-caliber pistol and a knife to the school and fired 10 shots at students in the high school cafeteria. Lane was there waiting for a bus to an alternative school he attended.
Lane pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated murder, two counts of attempted aggravated murder and one count of felonious assault. Charged as an adult, Lane cannot get the death penalty because he was 17 at the time of the crimes.