Balloon-Filled Sky Honors Brunswick Teens

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BRUNSWICK, Ohio -- Hundreds of people gathered at Brunswick High School Wednesday as the community's mourning slowly turns into remembrances.

It has been more than a week since a deadly crash that killed four students and injured another one, just hours before two of them were set to graduate.

The Brunswick community united, once again, as they celebrated the four lives and prayed for the recovery of the teen who survived.

Students gathered on the school's football field Wednesday afternoon, preparing to launch hundreds of blue and white balloons, colors that have become a symbol of strength and unity in this community.

"We're just trying to remember the lives of everyone that passed away and show the community, to the family how much we care," said student Alex Cameron.

The balloon launch was in memory of four Brunswick teens who were killed in a car crash in Columbia Township on June 3: 18-year-old Jeff Chaya, 17-year-old Blake Bartchak, 16-year-old Lexi Poerner and 18-year-old Kevin Fox.

Julia Romito, 17, survived and is recovering at home.

"I think this was a good way, so that you know, they're getting the messages because the balloons are floating up to them. I think it's a good way to get more closure than we've already had," said student Danielle Skala.

"It's kind of like our final goodbye to them, like it's the ending closure to everything that's happened," said student Tatum Nye.

As launch time approached, the football field began to fill up with students, Brunswick residents and relatives of the victims.

Each family or group was given a balloon, with a hand-written message on it.

As the marching band played, a balloon rosary was first released into the air.

"It was beautiful. The rosary was gorgeous. It really brought tears to my eyes," said Mary Draves, a North Olmsted resident whose husband is a Brunswick administrator.

Next, the families of the victims sent their balloons skyward. Finally, hundreds of people turned the skies over Brunswick into a sea of blue and white, sending a message that their lost classmates will not be forgotten.

"It's good for the community to get together and we all love each other and it's just good for us to remember them," said student Elijah Galloway.

"I think this was just really closure for everyone. They're still in our memories and stuff, and we are coming together and moving on, but we're still never gonna forget them," said student Lizzy Gehlman.

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