Grieving the Loss: Fox Meadow Responds to a Tragedy

JONESBORO (KAIT) --  The tragic news of Tavien Epley's death sent shockwaves through Fox Meadow Elementary and the surrounding community.  A precious life cut short in a matter of minutes.  Comprehending the news was difficult--if not unbearable.

One by one cars lined up outside the school--just like they do every weekday afternoon at the close of the school day.  But, today was different.

"It's terrifying that it can happen," said Linda Hallmark, a grandparent worried about her grandson.

Police officers assisted school personnel in loading students this afternoon from the back entrance to the school.  This is the area designated for pick-up and drop-off of kindergartners like Tavien.

"We're still trying to figure out why this child was being dropped off in the front," said James Dunivan, Nettleton Superintendent.  "This is a kindergarten child. I don't know if they were running a little late."

Dunivan praised teachers and emergency personnel for their quick response today.  But some who arrived to pick up children and grandchildren this afternoon had questions.

"It's inevitable that kids are sometimes going to be late," said Shena Burrow, a concerned grandparent who arrived to pick her grandchild up this afternoon.  "If they would just keep someone out there for 15 minutes this could be prevented."

"There's too many cars weaving in and out of the front," said Linda Gartman, another concerned grandparent arriving for afternoon pick-up at the school.  "They need to handle it in the front, the way they do in the back."

Beyond those questions is this... how do you deal with the grief of losing a classmate?

"We try to give them as much information as concisely as we can," explained Linda Graham, a Crisis Coordinator for Nettleton Public Schools, who is also a trained grief counselor.  She serves on the Craighead County Crisis Response Team.

Graham says counseling efforts began right away for students and teachers.  Crisis teams were on campus before it was learned that Tavien had died and they will be available--even for home visits.  Whatever is needed to get students and teachers through this difficult time.

"It's the worst nightmare," said Graham. "It's just the worst nightmare."

"I'm worried about him and his thoughts and what's going through his head," said Linda Hallmark about her grandson, who is also a kindergartner at the school.

"Whether we like it or not, it's (the accident) become the fabric of their story," said Graham.  "It's their story and we need to give them a chance to tell that story on their level and then react appropriately to that level."

It's a story everyone hopes their child won't have to know until they're older.  But, this morning's accident changed all that for them and one very special little boy.