MURRYSVILLE - Classes resumed Wednesday at a Pittsburgh-area high school where authorities said a student stabbed or slashed 21 others and a security guard a week ago while rampaging through a hallway with two kitchen knives.
Before school began, some students gathered at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday on the football field behind Franklin Regional High School to pray and to support one another.
After that, as day broke and other students drove to school - or were driven on buses or by their parents - they were greeted by well-wishers from a nearby church who were holding signs of support saying things like "Courage" and "It's a new day."
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Altoona Area High School’s Aevidum organization put together a poster signing drive for students to show support for Franklin Regional High School students after last week’s stabbing attack. Students (from left) Jaret Berardinelli, 18, Haley Smith, 17, Alissa Chirdon, 16, and Anna Gootz, 17, sign the poster Wednesday.
Karen Ingersoll said she has two children who graduated from the school, and two daughters still attend it.
"I think they were ready to go back," Ingersoll said, though she acknowledged there's more healing to come.
"My youngest can't sleep alone yet, she's still sleeping with her sister - she was a witness" to some of the attacks, Ingersoll said.
School and public safety officials have been steadily working toward getting things back to normal, said Dan Stevens, spokesman for the Westmoreland County emergency management department.
On Monday, teachers met with a crisis intervention specialist before spending the day at the school getting re-acclimated to their surroundings. On Tuesday, parents and students were invited to an open house of sorts where they were able to tour the building, which had to be cleaned after the bloody attack. Members of the community gathered at a park Tuesday night for a prayer service.
Suspect Alex Hribal, 16, is being held in a juvenile facility but is charged as an adult with aggravated assault and attempted homicide in the stabbings. Police have said he took the knives and attacked students at random as they arrived at school. Four students remained hospitalized.
Students at the middle and elementary schools, which share a campus with the high school, returned to classes a day after the attack, Stevens said, adding that, since then, the focus has been on returning things to normal at the high school.
"Getting back to school today is going to be a very good thing for them," Stevens said.
About 30 members of the Newlonsburg Presbyterian Church next to the school showed up to support the returning students, lining the street near the high school's entrance. Among the other signs they held read "Just know you're not alone," and "Prayers for healing."
Ingersoll, whose sign read "We (heart) U," said therapy dogs present at the open house will be at the school all week.
The school's spring break is this weekend, so students will attend classes Wednesday and Thursday, will be off Friday through Monday and will return Tuesday. Ingersoll said the gradual return to a normal schedule should help.
"I feel so bad for the teachers. Some of them looked so shell-shocked," she said.
Parent Joe Grajewski, who held a sign reading, "FR You are loved," said he came out to support his two children who attend the school, because, "I think every little bit helps."