DANVERS, Mass. (AP) — Students at the Massachusetts school where a classmate allegedly killed a teacher returned Friday, surrounded by extra safety measures as well as tributes to the victim, including trees adorned with pink ribbons, her favorite color.
Classes resumed at Danvers High School two days after student Philip Chism, 14, was charged with murder in the death of Colleen Ritzer, a 24-year-old math teacher. School had been canceled the previous two days.
On Friday, the U.S. flag outside the school flew at half-staff, and the pink ribbons hung from a row of six trees in front of the building.
The day was stressful and difficult, said freshman Cambria Cloutier, 14.
"Everyone was just kind of crying, crying together. Everyone," she said.
Cloutier had class with Ritzer and Chism, and she returned to the classroom to find it stripped of pictures and handwriting. "There was basically no life in it," she said.
She said she could only tolerate being back in the room for about five minutes because she was thinking about seeing Ritzer and Chism together in the room after school Tuesday, shortly before the teacher was killed.
"Just remembering that ... was overpowering," she said.
Outside the school, an electronic sign displayed a tweet that Ritzer posted this summer: "No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind."
"RIP Miss Ritzer. Gone, not forgotten," was written in the school colors of blue and white on the windows of a pickup truck in the student parking lot.
A police officer stood outside a cruiser in front of the school, part of the extra security intended to reassure students. Side doors were to be locked for the next few days, and counselors would be on hand, officials told 800 parents at a meeting Thursday night.
About 50 miles away at Assumption College in Worcester, where Ritzer graduated in 2011, a memorial service was held in her honor Friday.
Ritzer's death left "a mountain of sadness," said the Rev. Dennis Gallagher, who officiated at the service. But, he said, Ritzer was obviously committed to both her profession and to being kind to others.
"Wherever it came from, she seems to have understood some really important things about life," he said.