Around Weleetka, shock but no answers

By Bryan Painter Modified: June 11, 2008 at 4:21 pm •  Published: June 11, 2008
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They don't want to lose children to the anger and all that comes with a horrible act such as what occurred Sunday.

At Graham School, east of Weleetka, two grades share the same classroom. Fifth and sixth are in the same room, and physical education and computer training are the only courses outside that classroom. The students are very close.

Chancey and Mankin don't want to lose anyone to this pain — children or adults.

Placker, who was the only girl in her sixth-grade class along with four boys, and Whitaker, who was in a fifth-grade class with four girls and one boy, had an incredible impact on adults.

In such a small school, the teachers and administrators wear many hats. Chancey drives the bus.

At five minutes to 8 each morning, he would pull to a stop on the rural road in front of Placker's house.

Amid all the pain, this memory makes him laugh.

"Taylor would pop out of the door and come flying down the hill,” he said. "She would slow just enough for me to let her know if it was OK to cross the road. Then she would continue flying down the hill so fast that she would have to go past the bus to stop and then circle back.

"Every day she came through the door of that bus, she had a smile on her face.”

That was lost Sunday.

And so was this.

Ida Lawson has taught at Graham for 31 years. Her many hats include not only teaching seventh- through 12th-grade science, but also serving as a local 4-H sponsor. Whitaker had taken rocketry and was enrolled in an arts and crafts class scheduled for this week.

But it was a quilting class that Lawson remembered on Tuesday as the 4-H club held a fundraiser for the families of the girls, selling drinks and cookies as the Oklahoma FreeWheel bicycle tour came through. By noon, more than $2,000 had been raised at the 4-H fundraiser alone.

Bryan Smith, 13, shared about how Placker and Whitaker never caused trouble.

"Taylor was the smartest in the whole class,” he said. "And I remember Skyla was always laughing and always had a smile on her face. If you look at her pictures, she always had a smile.”

Those things and so much more were lost Sunday night.

Contributing: Robin Kickingbird, news researcher

Guest book: Taylor Dawn Paschal-Placker Guest book: Skyla Jade Whitaker

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