Tragedy: ‘Chardon is united’: Hundreds march to site of rampage

USA TODAY, March 1, 2012

By Yamiche Alcindor

CHARDON, Ohio – Hundreds of people gathered at the city square here Thursday morning as the community continued to grapple with Monday’s shooting rampage that left three Chardon High School students dead and two others wounded.

After a moment of silence and some words of remembrance, they quietly marched down the city’s roads to Chardon High School where grief counselors, school staff members and community members met them.

“Chardon needs to be here,” said Traci Arbogast, a stay-at-home mom, as she hugged her daughter, Amanda, a 16-year-old Chardon junior. “I think we need to work as a group and show that Chardon is united.”

For her daughter, walking back to the suburban Cleveland school as a group made returning to what is also a crime scene a little easier. Amanda Arbogast attended elementary school through high school with one victim, Russell King Jr., 17, who died early Tuesday, and with T.J. Lane, who police expected to charge Thursday in the killings of King, Demitrius Hewlin and Daniel Parmertor, both 16.

“It’s nice being here instead of trying to tackle going back to school alone,” Amanda Arbogast said. “It’s good to walk together — to know we have each other and that the whole community is there for support.”

Her mother said the future of Chardon’s recovery rests with its young. “The kids will heal us,” she said. “Chardon kids are strong. They are staying busy with fundraising and putting ribbons up. The kids are going to bring the community back.”

Chardon School Superintendent Joseph Bergant II hugged several students inside and outside the school. He declined to makes any comments to reporters.

Inside the school, the hallways were filled with red and black. Ribbons hung from lockers and cut-out red paper hearts were placed along the walls. Inside the cafeteria where the carnage took place, teddy bears, flowers and boxes of tissues marked the table where the shooting occurred. Some students sat at long brown tables recounting the shooting while others cried and pointed to the places where other students had run away from Monday’s gunfire.

Along the walls of the cafeteria, there was a banner that read “Chardon our thoughts are with you all” from nearby Mentor High School. Personal, colorful messages from the Mentor students covered the banner. Chardon students used pens to add their own thoughts.

Dr. David Schonfeld, director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, said parents and teachers should be prepared for all kinds of issues to come to the surface for survivors – even difficulties “completely unrelated” to the shootings.

“It kind of brings to the surface everything else that’s difficult – you need to be prepared for that in your kids,” he said.

Schonfeld warned that experiencing a shooting an’t simply be talked through. “I don’t know that it’s ever going to make sense to me. It’s not something that you ever fully resolve.”

Lane comes from a family with a violent history.

In 1997, his father, Thomas Lane, was arrested after his mother, Sarah Nolan, reported that he had pushed her around their house, threw everything out of the cupboards and threw his dinner against a wall because he was upset about the meal, according to a police report from the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office. Nolan told deputies that Lane pulled her hair and threatened to kill her.

In a dramatic arrest, sheriff’s deputies wrestled with Lane, who fought back violently, according to the report. They peppered-sprayed him, but he broke free and ran into a field. Deputies used a stun gun and pepper-sprayed him again. Lane continued kicking and punching. The officers were finally able to subdue him using their batons, the report said.

Contributing: Gary Strauss. Greg Toppo and Marisol Bello in McLean, Va., Associated Press.