01/15/14 — There for each other

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There for each other

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on January 15, 2014 1:46 PM

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Friends and classmates of Rosewood High School students Spenser Garrison and Malia Porter set up a make-shift memorial on Capps Bridge Road Tuesday evening in remembrance of the two teens who died Monday.

Rosewood High School was a different place Tuesday.

Some students had already finished their exams and had the day off.

Others, who still had tests to complete, arrived with quiet voices and solemn expressions, and left the same way.

The day after a double tragedy struck the close-knit school, the hallways were not the usual boisterous places, Principal Dean Sauls said.

"Nobody was texting, laughing, joking," he said.

Counselor Greg Lamm, a 17-year veteran at the school, noticed, too.

"It was just a somber mood all day," Lamm said. "You could tell they were just here to (take the tests.)."

The school community is still trying to digest the news that they have lost two of their own -- senselessly, tragically.

And no one, not the students, the faculty or the administrators is sure what to think, how to feel or where to go from here, they said.

"Some of this hasn't set in yet," Lamm said. "Almost to the point of disbelief."

"On a typical day, students walk by and say, 'Hey, Mr. Evans,'" Assistant Principal Dexter Evans said. "But today there were just little, quiet nods and handshakes, just acknowledging that you were there."

The school is making sure there is someone there to listen -- a trusted adviser, a grief counselor, someone to help students and faculty move forward, to try to get a handle on the conflicting feelings.

Lamm said a number of students have taken advantage of the grief counseling made available to all students.

And it wasn't just students who are grieving, he added. Teachers and other faculty members were just as numb.

"A lot of the calls I got Monday night were from teachers," Lamm said. "We can't make eye contact without tearing up."

It was a hard day for the counselor, too.

On Tuesday, when talking to students, it was difficult to be the guide, the voice of reason, he said.

"Even as a counselor, I was having a hard time myself," Lamm said. "I had to try to put my emotions aside. We were having to deal with it together."

Sauls said Rosewood is the type of school where everyone knows everything about everybody. Small schools are like that, he said. So although the pain might have affected people more deeply, they might also be in a better position to help one another cope with what happened.

Students gathered Monday night in an impromptu memorial at the school.

"They needed to do that for themselves," Lamm said.

Students gathered again Tuesday evening, at the site of the tragedy, on Capps Bridge Road, a few miles west of the school. And a special service is planned for tonight at 7 p.m. at The Bridge Church, which many students attend.

Lamm said that as a counselor, his job is to listen.

"You let them express their feelings," he said. "Kids at this age are vulnerable to a lot of feelings. And what they are feeling is the most important thing in the world to them."

And now he and the other administrators want the students to know that they are not alone, that the close-knit community, the school, the families will handle this together as best they can.

Evans said it is crucial that young people understand that when they are having problems, they are not alone.

"Find someone to talk to, talk to somebody," he said.

"If there is something going on in your life, tell an adult," Sauls added.

And the counselor who has listened to many students over the years has some advice for the adults who now must handle the unthinkable, to deal with the unexplainable.

"It's not so much what you say to them," Lamm said. "It's the fact that they know we're listening. Once they know you are really listening, you can come up with the right things to say."

But one of those "things to say" will not ever likely be a true explanation of why the students made the choices they did, the men said.

"We have no idea what happened between 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.," Sauls said.

Evans said young people need to realize that suicide solves no problems and leaves behind so much pain for others.

"It hurts," Evans said. "There will forever be the question, 'Why?'"