7 tragedies strike St. Louis Park School District in recent year

7 tragedies strike St. Louis Park School District in recent years

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As the St. Louis Park School District works to help students cope with the loss of 18-year-old Evan McManus, many are struggling with the weight of several recent losses to strike the community.

Any town is devastated when two of its own goes missing, but the city of St. Louis Park has had more brushes with heartbreak than most. In the last two to three years, students and parents across the district have dealt with a number of tragic and unexpected deaths.

On Thursday, students at St. Louis Park High School wore orange in memory of their missing classmate, Evan McManus, and his grieving family -- but unfortunately, the youth have felt the pain of loss many times before.

"You want to be able to prepare your kids for life and circumstances, but I don't think there's any anything that can prepare you for the amount of tragedy that's happened in this community over the last couple of years," Mike Resnick said.

Resnick's son is in the same class as McManus, the senior who disappeared with his father, Damian, while hiking in Colorado over spring break -- a class that has seen more than its fair share of death.

In the last two years, a former standout baseball player, Derrick Keller, lost his battle with leukemia; freshman basketball player, Carly Christenson, died from the flu; and senior Andrew Dudley was killed by a car while riding his bike out of a church parking lot.

The losses haven't just hit the student body either. The coach known as Mr. St. Louis Park Sports, Joel Koch -- passed away from an aneurysm.

"That hit close to home," Resnick said. "He coached my daughter for 3 years in basketball. The day he passed, he came down to watch her pitch in a varsity softball game. It was really hard."

The tragedies also haven't been limited to the high school. Fourth grade students Mohammed Fofana and Haysem Sani were buried in a landslide while on a field trip at Lilydale Park last year. Just over a month ago, 7th-grader Abdullah Charif drowned in a pool at the middle school.

"It's hard to believe. They are resilient; they bounce back -- but how much of this can you take at an early age?" Resnick wondered.

Yet, despite all the grief and pain, Resnik believes that learning how to deal with death will eventually pay dividends far away from any classroom.

"It's forced them to understand loss and the grieving process -- and, hopefully, appreciate the time they have together while they are in the moment," he said.

St. Louis Park did honor Keller by renaming a baseball field after him at Dakota Park. Members of the sports community say they will find a way to do the same for the McManus family.

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