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Chloe Burks’ death stuns Hanover Central community

Chloe Burks | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media

Chloe Burks | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 3, 2012 9:43AM



CEDAR LAKE — The tone was somber Thursday morning at Hanover Central High School as students and staff tried to cope with the tragic loss of freshman student Chloe Burks.

Burks, 15, of St. John, was killed while walking along the Norfolk and Southern Railway tracks listening to her iPod through headphones on her way to soccer conditioning Wednesday afternoon.

“Chloe was a great kid. She was bright in the hallways, polite and always cheerful,” Hanover Central principal Justin Biggs said.

A message was send to students and staff Wednesday to bring everyone together in the West Gym at 7:30 a.m. Thursday to discuss the tragedy and inform students of resources available to assist those who may need more help dealing with Burks’ sudden tragic death.

“Our hearts go out to Chloe’s family and friends. We realize this is a terrible, terrible tragedy, just a terrible accident,” Biggs said.

Teachers during first-period classes also were instructed to begin a conversation with students and allow them to talk about the tragedy as little or as much as needed. Ministers and counselors were on hand to talk to those students who needed more help. Multiple students utilized the more direct contact with grief counselors.

Biggs said students were also encouraged during the assembly to be respectful during this time as rumors about Burks’ death began spreading Wednesday via social media platforms.

“Rumors are what they are: That is a falsehood,” Biggs said. Students were encouraged to turn off their digital devices Thursday and communicate with one another verbally so information did not become distorted.

“The message over and over was choose your words carefully. They can help with the recovery or hinder it,” Biggs said.

This has been a tough school year for the Hanover Central community. In December assistant wrestling coach John Willems died suddenly at the age of 42. Willems was a Hanover Central alumni and had been the assistant wrestling coach for eight years.

Biggs described the student body and staff at the school as resilient in learning how to cope with tragedy. He said the school system would do everything it can that is appropriate in mourning Burks’ passing.

“At the end of the day we have to move on. It’s a crucial component of the grieving process,” Biggs said.

Arrangements are expected to be finalized Friday through Edmonds & Evans Funeral Home in Cedar Lake.



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