Students find their own ways to mourn

The entrances to Carson High School are marked with words written in chalk.

Words like "friendship," "peace," "hope," "strength" and "courage" serve as reminders of how to cope with the deaths of beloved classmates Keegan Aiazzi, 17, and Stephen Anderson, 16, who died in a scuba diving accident last Saturday in Monterey, Calif.

It's just one way students have reached out during this time of crisis. Rather than wait for school officials or other adults to organize memorial events, students have taken the lead.

"It's a healing process we all have to go through," said Tommy Champion, 17, as he joined classmates Monday evening in putting the boys' initials on either side of the "C" on C Hill.

When the two boys, known to be best friends, didn't surface after the second dive, fellow students on the trip began texting their classmates back home.

When they got news that the two had died, Champion said, he went numb.

"I couldn't feel anything," he said. "I just sat there."

But once the shock wore off, he was mobilized to action. He and about a half-dozen other students set up a memorial in the boys' parking spaces, which are adjacent to one another at Carson High School.

Students spent six hours and longer keeping vigil there on Sunday. A Facebook page dedicated to the two juniors was set up, where students organized an informal memorial in the parking spaces Monday morning and planned to wear the school's colors of blue and white in honor of the fallen football players.

Administrators allowed the students to visit the memorial during the day and gave them the option to console one another rather than attend classes.

"They needed it," said Principal Ron Beck. "They needed to be able to grieve with each other. We needed to not worry about what was going on in the building, we needed to worry about what was going on with them."

Beck said he hasn't been

surprised by the initiative students have taken to find outlets for their mourning.

"This is the type of kids we have," he said. "They're very creative and very caring. We have great kids."

Activities director Misty Harris said it also is a reflection of Stephen and Keegan.

"These students were the kinds of kids that would smile at anybody walking down the hall," she said. "They had hearts of gold."

Francesca Tonino, 17, agreed.

"It's the least we could do after all they did for us," she said.

Jacob McClelland, 16, said they welcomed him to the varsity football team, even though he was younger than most of the other players. That attitude, he said, was not unique for them.

"They were the nicest kids I knew," he said.

McClelland hopes the school will follow their example and continue to pay tribute to them.

"We can never do enough to show how much they impacted each and every person in our school," he said. "It will never be enough in my eyes."


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