Community comes together to remember crash victims

Community memorial
Attendees of a community service for the victims of a deadly auto accident gathered outside Cambridge-Isanti High School in Cambridge Wednesday, April 28, 2010.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Hundreds gathered at Cambridge-Isanti High School to sing, pray and show the community's support for the families of the crash victims.

Two who died were current students at the high school: 15-year-old Kelsee Blackledge and 16-year-old Stephen Kendryna.

Yesterday, students and parents cried and wiped their faces in the school's darkened auditorium.

The stage was draped in white cloth and lit with candles. Organizers didn't allow recording during the service, but speakers offered prayers while a piano played in the background.

One asked for the community to go beyond social boundaries and look at people they haven't looked at before, because many there didn't know the teens that died.

"I personally, truly didn't know these kids ... but they're still souls and for this to all happen it's still heartbreaking," said Andre O'Rourke, the student body president. "I hate to say this but this is a tragic lesson that you should step out of your comfort zone and get to know people. This is a small town. This is Cambridge-Isanti High School."

People may not have known the victims, but they had seen them around. And suddenly not seeing them was confusing and shocking -- even though the accident Sunday morning was the third fatal crash involving teenagers that weekend.

Paying tribute
Trucks parked at Cambridge-Isanti High School Wednesday, April 28, 2010, paid tribute to the victims of a deadly auto accident that occurred in Cambridge Sunday.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

In the Cambridge crash, Sebrina Schumacher, 16, had been licensed to drive for a month when her car hit another vehicle head-on in the middle of a wet bridge.

Two men in the other car died; both were fathers. Schumacher survived, and is in critical condition. Her four passengers were killed.

Schumacher's mother has said a hospital test showed her daughter had no alcohol in her system at the time of the crash, Isanti County Sheriff Russ Monson said. It could be another couple of weeks before authorities have access to the official toxicology results.

On Thursday, Schumacher was in satisfactory condition at Hennepin County Medical Center.

Mark Holm has been counseling students at the high school. He's area director of the Christian outreach organization Young Life.

"On Monday, they were not quite sure how to respond," Holm said. "They thought, 'Oh I should be really sad,' and some felt guilty they didn't. So tonight was a part of just allowing everyone to respond the way they feel."

O'Rourke, the student body president, said kids are reaching out to people in a way they hadn't before.

"For the people who don't normally hang out together, they just go up to people, just give each other hugs, you know, try to be as one, try to be as whole," he said.

O'Rourke said he now sees everyone around him as a chapter in a book, and if he doesn't get to know everyone, he misses a chapter.

(MPR reporter Elizabeth Dunbar contributed to this report.)

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