Community mourns Hawken students killed in crash

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GATES MILLS, Ohio – At the site of a crash that killed two Hawken School seniors and injured two others, symbols speak louder than words. A growing memorial included a basketball, a tie from a school uniform, and dozens of flower bouquets. Students and parents gathered near the scraped tree, hit by the vehicle the 18-year-olds were riding in Thursday afternoon, to remember the victims.

Alex Doody, from Chagrin Falls, was a standout on the basketball court, making a memorable buzzer-beater shot from half court in December. Josh Weil, of Cleveland Heights, played football and lacrosse. He earned the Chagrin Valley Conference Sportsmanship Award two weeks ago.

Classes were canceled at Hawken School Friday, as students met with more than a dozen grief counselors. The school released a statement Friday afternoon stating, “The Hawken community has suffered a terrible loss that has left all of us in deep grief. Our deepest sympathy, thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of the two students who were killed and the two students who were injured in yesterday’s accident.”

The crash came on the eve of a weekend-long celebration of Hawken’s 100th anniversary, bringing alumni back to the school. After much deliberation, the school said it decided the Centennial Celebration will go on, though some events have been changed or canceled.

“Because so many of us find our strength in the power of the Hawken community, we believe that this is the right thing to do at this time,” school leaders wrote in the statement.

Neighboring schools offered counselors and support, including University School. Rivalry was set aside as seniors banded together Friday to wear red, Hawken’s school color. The school also held a moment of silence.

“I think what happens is, you don’t have words to express the grief and sadness we feel, and the sympathy we feel,” University School Headmaster Stephen Murray said. “So, I think symbols take over at these times, and this is really a symbol of the emotion and solidarity the boys feel with their friends at Hawken.”