Students of the Pennsylvania high school where a violent and bloody knife attack left 22 injured — four still in critical condition — will return on Tuesday to the place where the horrific events unfolded, school officials said Sunday.
Franklin Regional High School students will be given the chance to walk through the hallways with their families on Tuesday, the school said in a statement.
Ryan Bailey, a student at Franklin, said he hasn't fully comprehended the tragic events yet, but he thinks Tuesday's walk through will help him and his friends cope.
"I hope that on Tuesday, when students can go to the high school and walk around, it will start to set in," Bailey told NBC News.
“Even the strongest of students will be uneasy.”
On Wednesday, students will return to classes just one week after Alex Hribal, 16, allegedly wounded 21 students and a security guard while brandishing two kitchen knives.
A prayer service will be held before the opening bell at 6:30 a.m., said Travis Deans, a coordinator at the National Network of Youth Ministries.
After prayer by the flagpole, local musician and Franklin alum Noah Rabe will hold a worship music service on the football field.
Rabe told NBC News he believes the prayer and music will help calm the teens on Wednesday, but “even the strongest of students will be uneasy.”
Rabe graduated last year, and many of his friends who are still students at the school witnessed the chaos.
“They've told me life has been a blur since Wednesday," Rabe said. “Every student I've talked to has had an unsure and frightened tone in their voice, even if we're not talking about the stabbings.”
While it will be painful to return, "there is nothing that the district could do to make me feel safer," Bailey said. "It is terrible what happened on Wednesday, but nothing could have been done to prevent it."
"Our school district has experienced a tragedy beyond our understanding,” Franklin Regional District Superintendent Dr. Gennaro Piraino said in a statement.
Piraino said a private company would “clean and restore our building to pre-incident condition” by Monday, when the teachers are scheduled to return.
Still, the events of Wednesday’s violence cannot be scrubbed with cleaning supplies, and Franklin Regional promised to have counselors available for students and staff, as well as "heightened supervision," Assistant Superintendant Mary Reljac told NBC News.
"Our goal on Wednesday is to operate according to our regular schedule," Reljac said.
As his classmates planned to return to school, Jared Boger, 17, whose stab wound sits just millimeters away from his heart, underwent his fourth surgery on Sunday, and was still in critical condition, said Cyndy McGrath, a spokeswoman at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
McGrath said the surgery on Boger’s abdomen was successful, and he was improving but struggling to speak. “He has been communicating with his parents by tapping and by writing some things on a tablet,” McGrath said.
Three additional students were still in critical condition at Forbes Hospital in Monroeville, Pa., said Jesse Miller, a hospital spokesman.
Investigators are still trying to determine why Hribal may have randomly knifed Boger and nearly two dozen others.
“Something went wrong, somewhere,” defense attorney Patrick Thomassey said Saturday night, although he said his client doesn’t have a history of mental illness and has not mentioned ever being bullied.
Hribal is being held without bail on four counts of attempted homicide, 21 counts of aggravated assault and a misdemeanor count of carrying a prohibited weapon.
Thomassey said he wants to move the charges against Hribal to juvenile court, where he could be rehabilitated for possible mental health issues. Prosecutors have charged Hribal as an adult and, if convicted, he could face a sentence of up to 585 years in prison.
First published April 13 2014, 8:45 PM