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Oklahoma high school marks anniversary of students’ deaths

February 3, 2021 GMT
FILE - In this Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, file photo, emergency crews respond to a scene where a vehicle hit several Moore High School students in Moore, Okla. Moore High School is marking the one-year anniversary of the deaths of three members of its cross country team with gatherings of students inside the school, counselors for students and staff and therapy dogs. School Principal Mike Coyle said Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, that students and staff are also invited to write notes remembering the three, which will be placed in a time capsule later this spring. (Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
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FILE - In this Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, file photo, emergency crews respond to a scene where a vehicle hit several Moore High School students in Moore, Okla. Moore High School is marking the one-year anniversary of the deaths of three members of its cross country team with gatherings of students inside the school, counselors for students and staff and therapy dogs. School Principal Mike Coyle said Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, that students and staff are also invited to write notes remembering the three, which will be placed in a time capsule later this spring. (Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
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FILE - In this Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, file photo, emergency crews respond to a scene where a vehicle hit several Moore High School students in Moore, Okla. Moore High School is marking the one-year anniversary of the deaths of three members of its cross country team with gatherings of students inside the school, counselors for students and staff and therapy dogs. School Principal Mike Coyle said Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, that students and staff are also invited to write notes remembering the three, which will be placed in a time capsule later this spring. (Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman via AP, File)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A suburban Oklahoma City high school on Tuesday marked the anniversary of the deaths of three members of its cross country team with gatherings of students, while making counselors and therapy dogs available.

“This is a somber day for us, for all of us, a very subdued day,” said Moore High School Principal Mike Coyle.

He said students can write notes of remembrance and reflection to be placed in a time capsule that will be buried March 10 near where the students were struck while running outside the school on Feb. 3, 2020.

Classes continued as usual Tuesday, with counselors available in a commons area, said Kristy Hernandez, director of student services.

“The kids are somber, yet they’re resilient and they seem to be handling this,” well, Hernandez said. “It’s a very important part of the healing to have a sense of normalcy today.”

The school’s cross-country team had just began a practice run when authorities say a speeding pickup truck driven by Max Leroy Townsend, 58, crossed two lanes of traffic, veered onto a sidewalk and crashed into the runners. Students Yuridia Martinez, 16, Rachel Freeman, 17, and Kolby Crum, 18, died. Several others were injured.

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“It’s all kinds of memories flooding back in today, it’s bittersweet,” said Michael Freeman, the father of Rachel Freeman. “Obviously we’re honoring the memories of our daughter and our loss.”

Townsend’s 29-year-old son was killed in a multi-vehicle crash in Moore the day before the students were killed.

Townsend, of Tuttle, is awaiting trial on three counts of second-degree murder, three counts of leaving the scene of a fatality accident and leaving the scene of an accident involving injury. He has pleaded not guilty.

“Quite frankly, I don’t give him a lot of thought. What happened, happened, we’ve forgiven him,” Michael Freeman said. “We just appreciate the opportunity to speak about Rachel and the other kids as well, there are other hurting families.”