Pa. Community Mourns After Losing 16 Students, 5 Adults in TWA Crash
Residents of Montoursville, Pa., have set up a memorial fund at their local high school to honor the 16 members of the school's French club and five adult chaperones who were killed in last month's explosion of TWA Flight 800.
The students, ages 14 to 18, had spent much of the school year raising money for a trip to France, and were on their way to Paris when the Boeing 747 exploded July 16 off the coast of Long Island, N.Y. Federal authorities are engaged in an intensive investigation to determine the cause of the blast.
Of the 21 people from Montoursville who perished in the crash, the remains of 17 had been recovered as of last week. Memorial services or funerals had been held for 16 of the victims in the small community about 120 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
Residents formed a committee last month to begin planning a large memorial service for the entire community, and set up the memorial fund at the 800-student Montoursville High School. A recently established site on the Internet's World Wide Web contains information on the town's crash victims and offers people around the world an opportunity to send condolences to people in Montoursville.
Trying To Cope
In the weeks since the crash, officials from the Montoursville school district have worked diligently to help teachers, students, and parents in the town of 5,000 cope with their grief.
David P. Black, the superintendent of the 2,450-student district, said dozens of staff members and students were helping in those efforts.
"Montoursville has had a system for dealing with crises in place for several years," Mr. Black said. "At the high school, we have student-assistance teams that help with the counseling. Everyone works closely in the process."
Mr. Black, who has been with the district for 23 years and has served as superintendent for a year, said school officials have scheduled meetings for the weeks before classes resume Sept. 3, to coordinate larger counseling efforts that will take place once students are back in class.
"We will be utilizing clergy, the high school student-assistance teams, coaches, and teachers," Mr. Black said.
He added that students or teachers who have not been able to make it to the school can call the telephone number for a crisis hot line that is displayed outside the high school.
Teachers will participate in an in-service day before the start of school to discuss how to respond to student problems.
Mr. Black said the steps being taken are part of the district's policy of moving quickly in response to tragedy. "It is important that the staff knows what should be said, what shouldn't be said, and how it should be said."
Additional information about the Montoursville victims and the memorial fund is available on the World Wide Web at http:// flight800.sunlink.net.