Cloud of grief hangs over the Oakhurst community

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Oakhurst community has had a cloud of grief hanging over it for two weeks now and Oakhurst Elementary school has been the epicenter. But hopefully, grief counselors who visited the campus Tuesday have helped kick-start the healing process.

Marijane Lewis, Alexis Montoya, and Jayden Montoya are just three of 360 students who started the year at Oakhurst Elementary.

In the span of two weeks, all three little girls died. First, carbon monoxide poisoning killed Alexis and Jayden last week. Then, Marijane's mother, Crystal, killed her before jumping 200 feet off a bridge and killing herself on Monday.

"It was like, 'No way. That can't be,'" said Bass Lake Unified Superintendent Glenn Reid. "We're just getting back on our knees, not out feet but our knees, from last week's happenings."

Grief counselors visited the school Tuesday for the second time in two weeks to help both the staff and students. They spent 30 minutes in each classroom discussing matters of life and death with children barely old enough to read or write or do math.

"It's hard for them to understand that children die and I think that they become fearful it could happen to them," said school psychologist Dr. Carol Cerioni.

While people at the school need healing, so do the families. Court documents reveal a bitter custody battle between Marijane's parents, with allegations of violence and drug use on both sides. But parents at the school remember Marijane as unaffected by it.

"She was bright," said Cathy Garcia, whose first grade son knew the one year younger Marijane. "She was a very bright girl and she will be missed."

Now, the community is rallying around all the survivors, hoping to end a cycle of tragedy with flowers and prayers.

"Our utmost effort right now is to pull together and work together," said the Superintendent, Reid. "Sometimes out of tragedies some good things do occur."

The emotions in Oakhurst are still very raw and some parents who talked to Action News were in tears. But a group of teachers and parents are planning a "rally of love" at the elementary school on Wednesday morning to help people start to move on.


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