Community Mourning Death Of Student - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

9/16/04-Grapeland

Community Mourning Death Of Student

"Devastating, just a tremendous blow...it'll never be totally normal again."

The loss of senior, Russell Pennington, has shaken the whole Grapeland community. A day after his death, usually noisy halls of the high school, were instead filled with sadness and quiet, as friends, teachers and staff remember the young man.

"He was a leader, kids looked to him on what they should do. He told me at the first of the year, he was going to be my Assistant Superintendent and make sure there were no problems for me to deal with," says, Grapeland Superintendent, Buddy Sumrall.

In honor of their friend, students decorated Russell's locker with letters and signs. To help students deal with their heartache, grief counselors and ministers were at the school offering support.

"The kids wanted to be here they wanted to be together. There's still a lot of questions, you try to give them answers, some you answer some you can't. The biggest question is why, nobody understands why here, why such a small town, why Russell and why everything," says one of Russell's former teachers, Gary Grahm.

And as they ask "why," they lean on each other.

"Grapeland community and school is like a big family. We'll get through it. It's just one of those things you have to go through, a day by day kind of thing," says Sumrall.

"Russell was an exceptional young man, very high character, very high morals, very pleasant young man , liked by everyone loved by most," says Grahm.

Something evident throughout the town. Several business have already announced they will be closed in honor of Russell's funeral.

"Grapeland's a very tight nit community. We take care of each other. You'll never forget Russell and the impact he and his whole family have had on the community," says Grahm.

"Just one day at a time. That's all I know to tell them. Just to take it one day at a time," says Sumrall.

Tomorrow's football game has been cancelled. In honor of Russell, there will be a candle light vigil on the field tomorrow night at 8 o'clock.

Funeral services for Russell will be Saturday morning at 10 o'clock.

Reporting: Braid Sharp bsharp@kltv.com

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