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Archive for Wednesday, April 25, 2001

LHS student’s memory lives on

April 25, 2001

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Lawrence High School students on Tuesday mourned a schoolmate killed Monday in a head-on collision south of town.

On poster board set up on two tables in the school commons area, students penned their thoughts and condolences for the family of Peter Andrew Swalm.

"It was a pleasure and an honor to know Peter," wrote one girl. "I pray that the Lord will comfort his family."

Other students recalled their own memories of the 18-year-old senior. A few students talked to each other at the table, writing their own message and reading what others had left, but the mood was somber as most wrote in silence.

"Peter, I always think of our elementary kickball games," a boy wrote on the poster board, which lay next to pictures of Swalm.

"Peter, you will be greatly missed by all. 5th hour will never be the same," another message said.

Swalm died shortly after 8 a.m. Monday when his blue 1981 Toyota Celica crashed into another car on County Road 458, about a mile west of U.S. Highway 59. Kristi Sanchez, 21, was driving west in a red 1999 Ford Escort when the wreck occurred.

Emergency personnel pronounced Swalm dead at the scene. Sanchez was flown by helicopter to Kansas University Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., where she underwent emergency surgery. She remained in critical condition Tuesday night.

Investigators re-examined the accident scene Tuesday, but Douglas County Sheriff Rick Trapp wouldn't say whether investigators had learned what caused the accident.

LHS Associate Principal Mike Browning said he hoped the messages to Swalm and his family helped students work out their emotions.

"It's a tough time for everyone," he said. "It's devastating when someone you're in class with or teach is suddenly gone. It's something you can't describe until it happens and then the emotions come racing out."

Many students and faculty plan to attend Swalm's funeral on Thursday, Browning said. The posters with students' messages will be laminated and given to Swalm's family then.

"I hope it will let them see how much Peter was loved," Browning said.

Counselors with the district's crisis response team were at the high school Monday and Tuesday. A library classroom staffed by counselors provided emotional support to Swalm's classmates and teachers.

A memorial service is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Grace Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

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