Franklin Regional students find comfort from tragedy in routine, reflection

by: Tom Fontaine, TribLIVE Updated:

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MURRYSVILLA, Pa. —

At least a dozen students showed up to Franklin Regional High School on Thursday to drop off homework assignments that were due, even though authorities canceled classes following a bloody rampage there the day before.

(This article was written by Tom Fontaine, a staff writer for Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE.)

“Students, they follow the rules,” said Westmoreland County public safety spokesman Dan Stevens.

Officials turned away the dutiful students so authorities could finish processing what had been a sprawling crime scene and began restoration work that will get the building ready for classes to resume Monday.

Early Thursday afternoon, there was little activity around the school. A lone Murrysville police car sat in a parking lot, along with a Westmoreland County Department of Public Safety sport utility vehicle and a dozen satellite trucks for local and national media outlets.

“These are my kids and we just got to get back to normal,” said Murrysville police Officer William “Buzz” Yakshe, a long-time school resource officer who arrested Alex Hribal, 16, who is accused of stabbing 21 students and a security guard in the rampage.

Classes were held at the nearby middle school and elementary school.

“There have been some complaints from families about school going back, but (it's been an) overall positive reaction,” Stevens said.

Someone placed a bouquet of red and yellow flowers along a staircase leading to the high school's front doors. Stevens said they were there when he arrived at 4 a.m.

Also early Thursday, someone provided the Panera Bread restaurant on Route 22 -- a popular hangout among students -- with $500 so students who went there Thursday could eat for free. Students used up the gift by early afternoon.

Across from Franklin Regional, at Calvary Lutheran Church, a sign read, “We are praying” and “Lord heal us.”

About 50 miles away, employees of Seven Springs Mountain Resort reacted. One of the students injured, Jared Boger, works on the ski patrol at the resort.

“Our entire mountain family is deeply saddened by this tragedy and all of our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to Jared, the other victims, their families, friends and loved ones,” Seven Springs spokeswoman Anna Weltz said.

Gus Bondi, coach of the Murrysville American Legion baseball team, said Boger played for him for eight to 10 years, describing the junior as a “great kid and a joy to coach.”

“I'm praying for him and his family, obviously,” said Bondi, whose son, Gus, is friends with Boger. “He's the type of kid I'd let date my daughter.”

Sophomore Brett Hurt was recovering from his injuries Thursday morning at Monroeville's Forbes Hospital. He said he'd only met Hribal a few times.

“I hope I can forgive him one day,” said Hurt, 16, accompanied by his mother, Amanda Leonard. “He made a bad decision. He could have chosen a different path to take. You choose whatever path you want to take.”

One of Hurt's friends, Gracey Evans, said Hurt saved her life by stepping in between her and Hribal as he wielded a knife.

“He saved me,” said Evans, 17, a junior. “He's my hero in all of this.”

Leonard broke down in tears as she clutched her son's arm.

“It's a godsend to have my child alive,” she said.

Many of the students treated at Forbes Hospital had stab wounds on the back, said Dr. Mark Rubino, the hospital's chief medical officer. The hospital treated seven patients, two of whom have been discharged. Three of the remaining students are in critical condition, Rubino said.

Rubino said he spoke to many of the victims and noticed “no sense of anger, no sense of vengeance.” Many of them were caught by surprise by the attack, he said.

“They came in and they were worried about their friends,” he said.

(Trib Total Media staff writers Melissa Daniels, Luis Fábregas, Margaret Harding, Megan Harris and Doug Gulasy contributed to this report.)