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Grieving students relieve pain by talking to counselors, peers
By Todd Natenberg | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/4/2009 5:03 PM | Updated: 8/4/200 9:53 PM

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Originally published Jan. 11, 1993

The stinging news that her close friend and classmate, Michael C. Castro, had been murdered left Catherine Ernst devastated.

"My knees gave out and I just started crying real hard," the 17-year-old Palatine High School junior recalled. "I just all of a sudden felt real weak."

The deaths of Castro and Rico Solis, another Palatine High School student, and five other people murdered Friday at Brown's Chicken & Pasta in Palatine, has shaken the community. It caused pain that many people tried to ease Sunday by talking with counselors and leaning on each other.

Ernst was one of about 20 students and parents who came together at the high school to cry, search for answers or just to talk.

"Yeah, you're going to cry and get emotional," Ernst said after meeting with the counselors. "But you help yourself out by getting it out in the open."

Catherine's 14-year-old sister Jessica, a freshman, also knew Solis and Castro. She, too, sought help in dealing with the tragedy.

"I had met both of them and they both were really nice people," Jessica said "They were the nicest kids. I can't believe it happened "

Counselors met with students, parents and relatives of the victims to try to sort through their feelings.

Friend of Castro and Solis remembered the good times.

"A lot of kids would be talking about, 'Why would somebody do this? What would be the possible motive?'" said Kathy Pozzi, a high school social worker. "They would run over five or six things in their mind. Then they come to no conclusion."

Pozzi said the students' feelings were mostly "stunned, shock and sadness."

Fred Brown, son of one of the original Brown's founders, also went to the school to offer his condolences.

"I don't want to let the kids down. That's my name on all those signs," said Brown, who had made string necklaces of small crosses and donated them to the school.

Despite the tragedy, school will be open today. As the school's 2,000 students return this morning, principal Nancy Robb will use the public address system to talk to students.

"The school is really a safe place for our students," Robb said. "I feel by coming here, that they will be able to process those things they need to process."

While nothing of this magnitude has ever struck the high school, counselors, ironically, already had assembled a crisis team after a tragedy last week. Disabled student Timothy Cundiff died.

"Tim's death hit the special education students hard," said senior Michelle Parke, the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, The Cutlass.

"But Tim had respiratory problems and went into a coma. That's easier to understand than this."

Daily Herald Staff Writer Laura Janota contributed to this report