Tuesday, June 30, 2009
'World Needed Her,' Devastated Dad Says
By Dan Boyd
Journal Capitol Bureau
Five teenagers. Two schools. One city struggling to say goodbye.
Less than 48 hours after a broadside collision with a suspected drunken driver claimed the lives of four Santa Fe teenagers and sent a fifth to the hospital, family members, friends and teachers of those killed sought solace in memories and stories.
At Monte del Sol Charter School, which two of the teens attended, Rose Simmons and Julian Martinez were remembered by a series of speakers Monday afternoon as upbeat free spirits.
"He was the class clown, but he wasn't stupid," Jaco Foster told the Journal of his friend Julian Martinez. "The things he cared about, he really cared about."
Earlier in the day at Santa Fe Prep a private high school with a student body of about 350 students family members, classmates and teachers hugged and cried at a gathering in the school's auditorium.
At a makeshift shrine, friends wrote personal notes on large placards for Kate Klein and Alyssa Trouw both of whom would have been seniors this fall as the music of Pink Floyd and Bob Marley played above the somber crowd.
Kate Klein's father, Barry Klein, said his only child had dreams of attending Columbia University and had recently returned from piano camp. "We're going to miss her a lot," he said. "The world needed her."
Simmons, Klein, Martinez and Trouw were killed early Sunday after the 1992 Subaru in which they were riding collided with a Jeep whose driver had been traveling down the wrong lane on Old Las Vegas Highway, just east of Santa Fe.
The driver of the Subaru, Avree Koffman, 16, was transported to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque. She was listed in critical condition Monday but reportedly has shown some improvement and was able to breathe on her own.
Rachel Tynes, a junior-to-be at Santa Fe Prep, worked with Klein on a teen community service program at a local elementary school and said she'll especially remember Klein as an iron-willed teammate on the school's cross country team.
"She would always keep me going," Tynes said. "She wasn't the fastest runner, but she was the strongest spirit."
Nick Werth, an American history teacher at Santa Fe Prep, taught both Trouw and Klein during the recently completed school year.
"The one thing that really stood out about both kids is they had incredible minds," said Werth, who drove back from Colorado to attend Monday's gathering. "They were so bright."
Of Trouw, who performed community service work at St. Elizabeth's Shelter of Santa Fe, Werth said, "She was the kid who always had her hand up."
Administrators at both schools said they plan to have grief counselors available to both students and faculty.
"This is the beginning of a process we're going to need to go through together," Santa Fe Prep Principal Jim Leonard said.
Gov. Bill Richardson issued a statement Monday offering condolences to the families and friends of the four Santa Fe teenagers, all of whom were 16 years old except Simmons, who was 15.
In the statement, Richardson called the crash a "horrific tragedy" and said it is "yet another reminder that we must remain vigilant in our fight to keep drunk drivers off our streets and highways."
Parents of the victims needed no such reminder.
"I don't care about the man who's accused he's honestly not very important to me." Barry Klein told reporters, adding he doesn't believe authorities should release 27-year-old Scott Owens of Santa Fe. "I should die and my daughter should live."
After Monday's gathering at Santa Fe Prep began to wind down, circles of teenagers talked in hushed tones, some laughing and others crying, as empty Kleenex boxes dotted the auditorium floor.
"It makes you think it could happen to anyone," Tynes said. "I just hope no more teens die."