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STUDENTS COPE WITH TRAGEDY

Usually when students return to school after Spring Break, they are excited about seeing friends they haven’t seen in over a week and are anxious to get the last half of the semester over with.

However, those feelings were replaced Sunday by sadness and shock when students returned to the University and learned that six of their fellow students had died in an auto accident on Friday, about 20 miles south of Cincinnati.

Michelle Saunders and Ryan Leigh Foss, both of Huron, Ohio; Sara Jean McCarthy, of Brook Park, Ohio; Andrea A. Bakker, of Strongsville, Ohio; Jacqueline E. Ahlers, of Vandalia, Ohio; and Jessica R. Hedlund, of Perrysburg, were in a van on their way home from a Spring Break trip in Panama City, Fla. when heavy wind and rain caused the northbound vehicle on Interstate 71 to slide over the median and into the southbound lanes. A tractor-trailer truck collided with the van, killing the girls on impact. The six young ladies were all residents of Founders Quadrangle.

University students expressed feelings of shock when they heard the news of the crash over the weekend or as they returned to campus.

“I was shocked with the news of what happened last Friday. I talked with my friends and they shared my feelings of grief,” said Michael Cassandra, a student.

?A loss like this is one that will certainly be difficult to overcome and we will always question why this happened to such a wonderful group of people,” said junior Jay Atamanec.

This is the second year in a row a student living in Founders has died.

Jay Atamanec, a junior who lives in Founders, plans to live in the hall again next year. He said he is concerned about the fact that deaths have been occurring to Founders residents, but he said you can’t dwell on it.

“You just have to hope that nothing like that will ever happen to you,” he said.

The University’s Counseling Center had staff members present in the residence hall all day Sunday to console friends and acquaintances of the six girls.

Craig Vickio, director of the Counseling Center, said that his department tries to always be on the scene of a tragic occurrence such as this.

“Whenever there is a tragedy on campus, we try to make our staff available, particularly if it is affecting a large group of students,” he said.

The main goals of the Counseling Center are to act as a listener and help students and faculty discover ways that they can best cope with an incident of this nature, Vickio said.

“Students are going to have widely different reactions to this,” he said. “For a lot of students, they’re going to struggle to come to grips with the reality of this happening and others will be more numb to it.”

Vickio said one thing that is good for getting through the grieving process is to realize the important things in life and do things to recognize them.

“One of the things I see students doing is they want to reach out to other people,” he said. “There’s this wanting to do something important such as planning a memorial or vigil of some kind.”

According to Debbie Novak, hall director of Founders, students in the residence hall will be doing this by helping to plan a memorial service for the girls.

While nothing is planned yet, Novak has been in contact with the leaders of Founders Hall Council and they are interested in getting something going to remember the girls. All members of the University are encouraged to help out with the planning.

The student deaths have reached all ends of the campus, including the president’s office. University President Sidney Ribeau issued a statement over the weekend.

“It was with great personal shock and deep sadness that I learned of the tragic death of six young women from BGSU,” he said in the statement. “Our hearts go out with sympathy and solace to the families and friends of these young women whose lives have ended so tragically at such a promising and hope-filled time of their lives.”

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