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Victims of Metrolink train crash honored

September 11, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Students, parents and faculty at Chatsworth Hills Academy held a solemn ceremony Friday to remember the people who were killed or injured in last year's horrific Metrolink train disaster, which happened just feet from the campus. The last time helicopters flew over Chatsworth Hills Academy they were coming to the aid of train crash victims.

On the afternoon of September 12, 2008 a Metrolink train collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train on the tracks behind the school. Twenty-five people were killed and 135 were injured.

Parents and staff ran to help the victims.

"A lot of them were trapped and unable to get out, but those who could get out, there was a lot of bruises and head injuries," said parent Stacy Sullivan. "And I just kind of guided them to stay on the ground and wait for help to come."

A portion of the school's grounds became a triage site and the campus was closed for three days.

The private school held a ceremony Friday to remember the victims of the tragedy. The honored the first responders: the firefighters and police officers that saved lives.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke to the crowd. He said that parents, staff members and everyday citizens were responsible for small acts of heroism on the day of the accident.

"When we come together as we did here, when we unite together as we did here, we reaffirm our humanity," he said. "We reaffirm who we are."

Fortunately, most of the academy's pre-school through 8th grade students had already gone home on the day of the accident.

They decorated paper trees with leaves bearing messages of thanks on Friday. An oak tree was planted on the grounds near the train tracks as a memorial.

"The train is an everyday occurrence here at CHA, and we've kind of made it a part of our community," said Sullivan. "And the kids actually are very accepting of the train, and they love the train."

Another memorial to the victims was unveiled Tuesday in downtown Los Angeles. The large bronze plaque depicting railroad tracks approaching a tree- lined bend and inscribed with the words "Unfinished Journeys" is on display at the east portal of Union Station.

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