BEAUFORT, N.C. (WNCT) — As communities in Carteret County continue to mourn the loss of those aboard the plane that crashed off the Carteret County Coast on Sunday, East Carteret High School is coping with the internal loss of four of its own.
Staff and students at the school who spoke with 9 On Your Side expressed surprise and sadness at the loss of classmates Jacob Nolan Taylor, 16, Michael Daily Shepard, 15, Noah Lee Styron, 15, and Jonathan Kole McInnis, 15. East Carteret High School Principal Jay Westbrook said this loss is especially hard on the school community.
Since Hurricane Florence, the Down East area has used the term, “Carteret Strong” to describe the tightly-knit sense of community in Carteret County. Now, that term is once again surfacing all over social media. Westbrook said the acts of kindness and generosity across the area is exactly what “Carteret Strong” means.
“I don’t think it ever feels the same because of the hurt and the loss we have of our four Down East boys. I think we’ll be resilient. And we’ll come back again. And it’ll be something great again. I’m not sure what that looks like,” said Westbrook.
Westbrook added that at ECHS, students are so close, you notice who is missing from the cafeteria at lunch, and now, there will forever be four missing faces.
“A lot of these kids went to Atlantic Elementary from Kindergarten to fifth grade, and then moved on to Down East Middle and now to come over here to East Carteret. So there was 14 in that fifth-grade class … and now we have 10,” said Westbrook.
Westbrook said they have been providing counseling and other services to help students and staff who are struggling through this tragedy. And while staff and students continue to grieve …
“Our staff has the heart and the ability and the compassion and the love to help all of our students through this, the community, you know, we will band together, we’ll be there for each other,” said Westbrook. “For more intensive situations, we have individual counselors, we have integrated mobile crisis. So we have the, for the short term, the ability to meet the needs of our students.”
There was also a vigil in Beaufort on Wednesday night at Ann Street United Methodist Church, where community members gathered for prayer.