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School becomes 'haven' for outpouring of grief
By Burt Constable | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/4/2009 5:03 PM | Updated: 8/4/200 9:57 PM

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Originally published Jan. 11, 1993

The tragic news that would rock Palatine High School reached Principal Nancy N. Robb early Saturday while she was still in bed.

"My husband got me up. It was a little before 7 o'clock. He heard it on CNN, on the radio," Robb remembered.

"He got me up right away because he knew a lot of our students work at Brown's Chicken." She immediately telephoned the school's police consultant to see if, or rather "how many," students of hers were among the seven victims of the slayings at the fast-food restaurant.

That answer wouldn't come for another 15 hours but the barrage of telephone calls started immediately. "People calling to let me know there had been a tragedy; staff members calling to offer help if there was anything to do," Robb said. "As soon as you got off the phone, you got on the phone As soon as someone got up and awake, they would call. 'Did you know?' ""My parents called from Florida,"the principal said.

By 10 a.m., she was at the school, meeting with counselors, talking to her superintendent and police and making plans to deal with the tragedy.

The group pondered canceling that evening's basketball games and set a 4 p.m. deadline for the decision. The deadline came and went with no official confirmation of the rumored deaths of two Palatine High School students.

Playing the games gave worried students, parents and school officials an emotional outlet, a place to come together and talk. More than a half dozen counselors were on hand to talk to kids and adults.

"The school is really a safe place for students, kind of a haven," Robb said. "I think that was more important than sitting at home in front of the TV, waiting to hear the news"

The plans for dealing with the grief already were in place when police confirmed the names of the dead, including the two students.

"I was on the phone with police getting verification as the game was ending," Robb said.

Now comes the hardest part.

"In a school of nearly 2,000 students, it's difficult to think of it as a family, but it is," Robb says. "It's been an amazing experience. I can't relate in words It impacts everyone in the community, but it has special impact here. We all go to the Brown's restaurant. Our kids work there. It really hits home."