Franklin Regional students find solace in routine, reflection
Four friends who usually start their school days together at Franklin Regional Senior High School instead spent Thursday hugging and drying tears in a Murrysville restaurant in the emotional aftermath of a mass knife attack.
“Last night it hit you — you don't want to be alone,” said Cara Baughman, 17, of Murrysville after lunch at Panera Bread on Route 22 with three friends from her first-period chemistry class. “Everyone who saw something is having a traumatic experience.”
Caleb Woyt, 16, also a junior, of Delmont ate his first meal since breakfast on Wednesday about an hour before police said Alex Hribal, 16, slashed his way through the school's hallways, stabbing 21 students and a security guard.
“If any of them got hurt, I wouldn't know what to do,” Woyt said as junior Shawn Busche, 16, of Murrysville hugged him. “I was searching up and down, looking for all my friends.”
Woyt, Baughman, Busche and Amy Alfieri, 17, of Delmont often meet at the restaurant to hang out or study. On this day, they talked about how to help other students and wrestled with how to understand what might have pushed a classmate to violence.
“Sometimes you just can't explain what happens,” Alfieri said.
“And that's what's so confusing,” Baughman said.
Charged as an adult with attempted homicide and aggravated assault is Hribal, a 5-foot, 3-inch, 110-pound sophomore whom dozens of Franklin Regional students described as quiet, friendly and shy.
“I knew people said things to him, but I never thought he was so angry that he would do something like this,” said Kaitlin Pepper, a fellow sophomore. “I don't want them to think he's a monster.”
Hribal has no psychological or criminal history, no drug or alcohol problem, was never disciplined in school and maintained a B average, said Patrick Thomassey, his defense attorney.
Thomassey plans to seek a competency exam and bid to move the charges to juvenile court.
“This is not a dysfunctional family,” he said. “This family sat down and made dinner every night. They're devastated. He didn't have a beef with anyone at school that I'm aware of. ... These are parents that were very much involved with their sons.”
No one answered the door at the Hribal home, where the boy has lived for 14 years with his parents, Harold and Christine Hribal, and his older brother, a fellow high school student.
Nate Moore, 17, thought he saw a fight as he walked toward the school office on Wednesday.
“There was a girl in front of me, and I got cut in the face,” Moore said. Doctors needed 11 stitches to close the wound on his right cheek.
“He's just quiet,” Moore said of Hribal, whom he has known since elementary school. “Not really a loner; he has some friends. I have no idea why he would do this.”
Moore described the attacker as emotionless. “You can't really be mad at someone that doesn't really know what they're doing.”
While Hribal waits alone in a juvenile detention center, his fellow Franklin Regional students sought comfort from each other.
Franklin senior Jack Bradley, 18, wrote “Prayers for FR” in blue and yellow on the windows of his four-door car with the names of those injured — Jake, Brett, Nate M., Jared, Ariana — on the back window.
The reality of the situation, he said, was difficult to comprehend.
Tales of heroism from the Murrysville community reached as far the White House. Spokesman Jay Carney said President Obama offered his sympathy and gratitude to Principal Ron Suvak by phone. The government will offer whatever law enforcement help is necessary, Carney said, as students, teachers and staffers resume their lives.
Authorities canceled classes through the end of the week so investigators can finish processing the sprawling crime scene.
Bouquets and small banners littered the quiet campus, and dutiful students showed up early to turn in assignments.
The four friends from Panera brought flowers and planned to wear the school colors of blue and gold when they return to classes next week. Busche had a prom dress fitting and joked that because she hasn't been able to eat much since the attack, “it's probably going to be a little loose.”
“People say we're in a bubble, and you think of a bubble as a bad thing, but it's a good thing in a situation like this because everyone knows each other and can support each other,” Alfieri said.
An anonymous donor gave a $500 gift card to buy food for any students who went to the restaurant, a popular hangout for area kids.
After eating, the friends walked to a Hallmark store to buy a thank-you card for the donor.
“We signed it, ‘Love,' ” and their names, Baughman said. “Because it is love.”
Trib Total Media staff writers Luis Fábregas, Renatta Signorini, Paul Peirce, Melissa Daniels, Doug Gulasy, Deb Erdley and Daveen Rae Kurutz contributed to this report.