By TOM TIGANI
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR — Employees of the Taylor School District have joined forces quickly to help the families of two Truman High School students who were killed in a recent car-train accident in Canton Township.
Lynda Roberts, president of Service Employees International Union Local 26M, which represents the district’s noncertified support staff, said her union sent an e-mail message Monday to all district employees seeking donations for the families of Harry S Truman High School students Jessica Sadler, 14, who would have been a sophomore in the fall, and Eddie Gross, 17, who would have been a senior in the fall.
Also killed in the crash were Sean Harris, 19, of Taylor, his brother Terrence Harris, 21, who was visiting from Virginia, and Daniel Broughton, 19.
Local 26M paid for the luncheons after Sadler’s and Gross’s funerals and sent food trays to those of the other victims.
Roberts said between her group’s members and the district’s other unions, the Taylor Federation of Teachers and Taylor Association of Central Staff Administrators, Teamsters State County and Municipal Workers Local 214, there has been “an overabundance of people giving us cash and checks.”
She’s not surprised by the generosity, however, saying, “They were our kids and it was hard on everybody.”
As of press time, the fundraising drive had netted $800, with more activities still being planned. Among them is a car wash from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday at the Local 26M headquarters, 12305 Beech Daly.
“We feel very fortunate that people have been so giving and so generous,” school Supt. Bethany Iverson said. “The employees of the school district have really stepped forward.”
“We know the parents need help,” Roberts said. “Funerals can cost $12,000 or more, and every penny adds up.”
SEIU Local 517M in Lansing also has joined the effort, as have local businesses including Gordon Food Services, Little Caesars, Mancino’s, Party City, Sam’s Club, Sax Drugs, Seaway Market, Total Community Credit Union and Wal-Mart. District officials arranged for grief counseling sessions last week, and other businesses, friends and community members also held fundraisers.
The five teens died shortly after noon July 9 when an Amtrak passenger train ran into a 2006 Ford Fusion driven by Broughton, who was trying to beat the train and had gone around a van on Hannan Road just north of Van Born Road and around the gate just as the westbound train was arriving. The car was hit broadside and pushed along the tracks for nearly a mile while being crushed under the front of the train.
Sean Harris was a former Truman student who had left the district in December without graduating. Broughton had attended Taylor schools but left the district in 2005.
Roberts said though the various employee groups have their share of professional differences as one might expect, they’re quick to put those differences aside in light of events such as the recent tragedy.
“Taylor Schools has a fantastic group of people when something like this happens,” she said. “The whole district comes together when something has to get done, and we get it done.
“We just consider all these kids our kids as well.”
By TOM TIGANI