'I’m in a fog’: Marlboro County HS students cope with the loss of 4 classmates

'I’m in a fog’: Marlboro County HS students cope with the loss of 4 classmates
Marlboro County High School students, teachers and school district officials gathered on Monday to remember another classmate who died. (Source: Jerry Andrews Photography)

MARLBORO COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and for one photographer, his picture is speaking volumes about the grief and heartache one school is facing.

Jerry Andrews took a picture Monday morning of another vigil at Marlboro County High School after another classmate died. It’s the fourth student death that the school has had to deal with since October.

A 15-year-old student died in a crash involving a tractor-trailer. Andrews said another student was shot and killed in Chesterfield County and a third student died from an illness.

The most recent death involves an 18-year-old student. The Marlboro County Coroner said the student’s death is being investigated and he’s waiting for the autopsy before releasing any more information.

But after each death, students have gathered around the flag pole at Marlboro County High School and remembered those that they have lost.

“I feel like I’m in a fog, just don’t really know what’s happening," said senior Kayse Hicks. "Everywhere you turn we’re losing somebody.”

“You have those where at moments they’re just upset. Other times they feel guilt and other times where all they could do is cry,” school counselor Staren Brayboy said.

On a foggy Monday morning, Andrews captured a moment where Sgt. First Class Donald Rivers Sr., a JROTC instructor, kneeled on the ground in the middle of the circle. Behind him is superintendent Dr. Gregory McCord and his pastor. Andrews said the two were there to offer support to the students.

“Photography is my art but today, this image cut into my soul. We are linked together in this life, as teachers, we have a monstrous responsibility to educate but we also love, support and care for our ‘kids,’” Andrews said in a Facebook post that has been shared throughout the community.

Principal Derwin Farr said along with providing grief support to students, they’ve also helped the families of the victims by providing remembrance posters and collecting donations.

“It kind of brought us closer together, but it’s been tough on our students, faculty, staff and the community," Farr said.

Brandy Harrington, the mother of Emily Paul who died in a car accident in October, said Emily was very outgoing and athletic. She was a member of the school’s softball team.

“Since Emily’s passing they’ve had three vigils out here and I have attended them and my heart goes out to the parents as well just like they did for me,” Harrington said.

Andrews said the school district has provided grief counselors for students and has been very visible in the school, making sure that students are getting the proper counseling they need.

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