Students pull together for Rachel
By PAMELA WILLIS
The school community was stunned by the shooting of 17-year-old Rachel Barezinsky, who was just a few days from beginning her senior year at
"Any time you have something like this happen, the school community is a family and it is a piece of your family that is hurting and we want to be there to find ways to take care of each other," said Principal Richard Littell.
Barezinsky was shot in the head and shoulder Aug. 22 while she was a passenger in a car with friends Tessa Acker, Una Hrnjak, Rachel Breen and Maggie Hester, also seniors at Thomas.
Allen S. Davis, 40, admitted to shooting at Acker's car from his house at
Littell said he found out about the shooting late that night.
"We had a staff meeting early Wednesday morning,"Littell said. "I let them know about Rachel's condition, which I had learned was critical, and we talked about the kids with her, and how we would handle this crisis."
Littell said counselors are available at the school.
The candlelight vigil that took place last Wednesday night was "a classic example of letting kids plan an event and having it turn out wonderful," Littell said.
"I had a group of parents and kids ask about a vigil, so we did some quick initial planning, but because there were a few differences of opinion, I told the girls, 'This is something you need to plan for the kids involved and for the other students, not for us,' " Littell said. "It turned out very well, and I have never seen so many of our staff at one occasion."
Hester said the vigil helped her and her friends to accept what happened.
"All those people coming together to pray and be there for Rachel was amazing," Hester said. "We played some of her favorite songs, and Rachel's mother spoke to the crowd."
Hrnjak said the cheerleading coach also spoke at the vigil.
"Rachel is the heart and soul of our cheerleading squad," Hrnjak said. "Our coach made a banner and gave us pins with Rachel's photo, and someone made us wristbands."
All four girls also wore necklaces with pendants stating "Faith, Hope and Love," made by Shawn Lavelle. Her daughter, Maggie, is a close friend of Barezinsky's.
"We also had all of these balloons at the vigil, and we let them go and they drifted up toward the
Barezinsky has steadily improved since last Wednesday, Hester said Saturday.
"We have this inside joke with Rachel that she has dinosaur hands, so we call her Reptar, and she makes a gesture with her hand like a claw," Hester said. "So when her mom called and said the doctor wanted Rachel to squeeze his hand, we told her mom to tell her to do Reptar, and she remembered and did it."
On Monday, Acker said Barezinsky's doctors told her she would be ready for physical therapy soon.
Littell said he talked to the freshman class Thursday about Barezinsky.
"We showed freshmen a multimedia motivation called The Power of One, which is about the power of an individual to make positive change, and the candlelight vigil tied in with that, because a group of kids pulled it together into a wonderful event that made a difference," Littell said.
Littell also talked to the entire student body Friday.
"I talked about the fact this is a situation that is terrible from all ends, and that many concerns are bubbling around the community," Littell said. "We passed the hat at the football game that night and collected money for Rachel, and a fund was set up for her at National City Bank."
National City Bank officials said residents can call or come in to any bank branch and make a donation to the Rachel Barezinsky Fund.
Hester said $1,500 was collected for Barezinsky during Friday's football game.
The Thomas Worthington varsity football team dedicated the game to Barezinsky and wore stickers on the backs of their helmets with her initials, Littell said.
Hrnjak said it was hard to step out on the field as a cheerleader.
"Rachel always called out the cheers for us," Hrnjak said. "We don't have a captain, but she had taken on that leadership role. We put a set of pompoms in her place, and kept her space in each cheer. It was supposed to be Rachel's big night, to do the back flip she'd worked on all summer. Another girl in our varsity squad, Kenzie Bruck, did the flip instead, because her parents said they would put $100 in the fund for Rachel."
Hester said the football coach gave Barezinsky the game ball, and it is now in her hospital room.
Other local teams and groups, including Worthington Kilbourne students and the Dublin Coffman cheerleaders, rallied behind the girls and Barezinsky, Hester said.
"It was amazing to see these people we didn't even know supporting us," Hester said.
All the girls said it would be hard to go on with their senior year without Barezinsky.
"We were supposed to all go stag to homecoming," Acker said. "Our goal is to get Rachel up and well so we can all dance together at the homecoming dance."