Franklin students return to school after swimming tragedy

FRANKLIN, Ind. (WISH) – Students headed back to Franklin Community High School Wednesday for the first time since two of their friends died and one was seriously injured after a swimming tragedy two months ago.

As students entered the hallways of Franklin Community High School they were greeted by smiling teachers, but also heavy hearts.  Franklin administrators laid out a plan of how they will continue to remember those that are no longer with them.  But, their main focus was to encourage students to move on in order to continue healing.

The day began with a video tribute to numbers 28 and 38.

“And it was definitely emotional for me and I’m sure it was emotional for everyone else too,” said FCHS student Kelsey Harper.

“This morning I just said  I think it’s going to be a little sad knowing that there’s one still missing that she’s still recovering and then the two that aren’t still with us,” said Gina Willey, FCHS parent.

Jason Moran and Michael Chadbourne died after a swimming accident June 6 at the Big Blue River.  Sarah McLevish remains hospitalized at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.

“It’s was a little rough, but I think it’s time. We are kind of getting over it and we’re trying to stay strong for the families and for them,” said Harper.

Joining Principal Doug Harter in the video was the mother of Mark Nally.  He and Trent Crabb, also in the video, escaped the river uninjured.

“Our school and community have spent the last two months walking through the storm.  We are different people.  We’re stronger, kinder, more proud and more united than ever before.  We are Franklin strong,” said Deb Brown-Nally.

The process now begins of taking down thousands of blue ribbons that line the school and community.  Those ribbons were put up in support and have been reminders of the lives lost.

“In talking with a couple of the family members it’s been difficult because as they travel through the community it’s a constant reminder of that.” said Harter.

In their place two ribbons will hang inside Franklin Hall for the rest of the year.

“We’re honoring them as best as we can in the way they deserve,” said Kelsey.

“And kids are resilient and so they’re ready to get started themselves. So, we’re ready,” said Harter.

Events are planned throughout the year.  At the first home football game after a moment of silence there will be a new bench dedicated to Michael and Jason.  There will be another tribute on senior night.  Finally at graduation there will be an empty chair to remember those who aren’t with them.  That’s when the families of Michael and Jason will be given the two ribbons in their sons’ honor that were hung in FCHS Wednesday.

Jason and Michael’s families will be invited to all of the events.

Harter is hoping against all hope that Sarah makes a recovery and they are able to plan a welcome-back ceremony.

At last word, Sarah’s mother posted an update on the Facebook page, “When Sarah Smiles”  saying in part. “Been a busy week, rough at first but quieter and calmer now.”  “Therapy was difficult initial part of week and so we did see some slight regression due to the storms and/or agitation she was experiencing. Seems as though since yesterday things are falling more into place. The home visit went well, luckily no major construction, ramp and looking into a roll in shower. We are looking at a tentative discharge date of August 14.”

Watch the entire video tribute shown throughout FCHS Wednesday morning here

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