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Murders cast pall over Palatine High School
By Jackie Dulen | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/4/2009 5:03 PM | Updated: 8/4/2009 9:46 PM

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Originally published Jan. 10, 1993

Shock, horror and disbelief raced through the Palatine High School community Saturday as word spread that members of the student body were among the seven people murdered at a nearby fast-food restaurant.

Although the day's basketball games - as much a social event as an athletic one - went on as scheduled, somber conversations off the court focused solely on the discovery of the bodies at the Palatine Brown's Chicken & Pasta restaurant, described as a student hangout a short distance from the school.

Parents and students spoke of the mortality that is always far from the minds of teenagers but turns frighteningly real when they are confronted with the death of someone their own age.

"It's so scary," said sophomore Kristen Zavilla. "We all know people who work there. You can't imagine something like this happening to you."

Senior Brian Cromer went to the varsity boys basketball game Saturday evening to find others in the circle of friends he shared with victim Michael Castro.

"I couldn't reach some of them," he said, calm but visibly shaken. "I wanted to come here and find them and try to cope with it."

Talking with one of the school counselors at the game helped, said Cromer, who rode to school with Castro every morning. He had planned to pick up Castro from work Friday but worked late at his own nearby job and assumed his friend had found another ride home.

Although Cromer was one of few people at the game who said they knew any of the victims, most were frightened and upset by the crime.

"It's horrifying, absolutely horrifying," said Linda Markus, a Palatine resident, whose daughter is on the girls' basketball team. "It's very upsetting for her. Nothing in that building could have been worth seven lives."

Sophomore Nicole Herring said she had trouble believing what had occurred.

"You don't think it could happen here," she said. "It's such a nice town. This is a nice school."

School administrators braced themselves most of the day for the news that Palatine students were among the victims. Principal Nancy Robb said the decision not to cancel the game was made at 4 p.m., before police had identified the victims.

"At that point we did not have any information and we needed to make a decision," she said.

The games, crowded with students and parents, proceeded as usual, except for a brief announcement about the tragedy before the tip-off. A moment of silence followed.

Four counselors and social workers stood by during the varsity and junior varsity games, assisting students who became emotional. The school also will be open at noon today with a staff of six counselors and several clergy members available to help students and other members of the school community.

Monday will be emotionally difficult, students and counselors agreed.

"I think that's when it's going to sink in," said sophomore Stephanie Krantz. "That's when everyone will be in school together."

The grieving process usually includes a period of denial, and students may become more upset as time goes by, said Kathy Pozzi, a school social worker.

"With teenagers in particular, they want to have answers," Pozzi said. "In this situation, there are no answers."