Classmates, close friends and strangers joined together at St. James Roman Catholic Parish Monday night as the Stoughton community continues reeling from a devastating weekend car crash that killed four Massachusetts high school students.
“The first words that came to my mouth was four of them,” said Fr. James Mazzone, pastor at the church. “One is such a tragedy, four is almost unimaginable, it is so hard for us to wrap our heads around this.”
The hour-long service was an opportunity to talk about the loss and grieve the loss of the four boys.
“It was very sad inside,” said Anabela Cardoso who attended the service. “I wanted to be here to support the people, my son goes to school with the boys.”
Father Mazzone says the prayers Monday night will help the grieving families, and give classmates courage in the face of trauma.
His message: life is beautiful but fragile.
“Every moment is a gift,” said Fr. Mazzone. “Treat it like that, there are no promises, there are no guarantees.”
As for the driver involved in the crash, he is in the hospital with serious injuries.
There were prayers for him Monday night, too.
Students at Stoughton High School had returned to classes on Monday after the tragic crash that tragically killed four of their classmates.
Police said five teens were traveling along West Street in East Bridgewater at about 4:30 p.m. Saturday when their vehicle struck a tree and rolled over.
The Plymouth County District Attorney's office said Christopher Desir, 17, of Brockton, Eric Sarblah, 17, of Stoughton, and Nick Joyce, 16, of Stoughton, were pronounced dead at the scene. David Bell, 17, of Stoughton was transported to Brockton Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The 17-year-old driver was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Brockton and then to Boston Medical Center, where he is recovering.
School officials provided grief counselors on Sunday and said they plan to provide them throughout the week as needed for students.
While school reopened as planned on Monday, Stoughton Superintendent Marguerite Rizz had said she expected it to be a difficult day.
"I do not anticipate we will have a normal day, but it is important for students to have their routines if they want and need them. To know that we are going to available to them insofar as they're going to be able to go through a regular day we are going to provide that. Insofar as they can't, we will provide other resources for them," Rizzi said Sunday.
Most students wore black to school on Monday as part of an organized effort, and school officials put up black-and-orange ribbons on trees around town. A memorial at the crash site in East Bridgewater continues to grow.
Family and friends said the teens were good friends and active in athletics.
Bell was a member of the school's football, basketball, and track team and had recently set his personal record in the high jump.
"He was my son. He was my heart," his mother Solange Bell said. "In school, what you saw in school is what you saw at home."
Joyce was a sophomore and played football with Bell. He is being remembered as a star athlete with a bright future in graphic design.
"He touched a lot of people in such a short amount of time. He's sorely, sorely going to be missed," said Joyce’s uncle, Mark Walker.
For the Joyce family, Saturday's crash is the second tragedy to strike in recent weeks. Joyce's cousin Christopher Joyce was murdered in Jamaica Plain just days before his college graduation at Salem State University.
Sarblah’s uncle, Columbus Okai, spoke about him, saying, "Eric was a very kind person, disciplined, and he will be missed."
Desir's mother said she is not ready to talk about her son.
While the crash remains under investigation, authorities are looking into whether excessive speed may have been a factor. Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz said they are also considering weather conditions and the experience of the driver.
"This is a tragic, tragic situation," Cruz said. "And we hope that any and all young drivers that may be out there for any reasons at this time of the year, this festive time of the year that everybody is careful and goes slow and remember that their parents love them and when they tell them to please go slow, to do that."