Memorial for classmate killed in car crash dedicated at Notre Dame Academy

PARK HILLS, KY (FOX19) - It's been one year since a Notre Dame Academy student was killed in a car crash on her way back from a Spring Break trip to Florida.

17-year-old Maria Schaffstein was killed on April 16 of last year. Eight Notre Dame Academy seniors were involved that car crash, which also left Jessie Russo with severe brain damage.

Notre Dame Academy dedicated a memorial Tuesday night to Maria and to the victims of the crash.

One of the best ways to celebrate a life is to plant something in honor of that person, nurture it and watch it grow. It was in Notre Dame's Memorial Garden, that new signs of new life were found, so that the life of 17-year-old Maria Schaffstein is never forgotten.

Just a stone's throw from the serenity of a gurgling fountain and nestled between the tulips and spring flowers rests a boulder with the name Maria Elizabeth Schaffstein.

She was a devoted daughter, a loving sister and greatly missed by family, friends and classmates.

"To be able to move forward with that message of hope is very important," said Dr. Laura Koehl, Principal at Notre Dame Academy. "And that requires that we support one another in that."

So they gathered in prayer, to celebrate a life taken too soon and remember.

"Sister Shauna, who was President at the time, I think she really helped to lead that effort in terms of having something, some physical thing here where people could go and celebrate the memory of Maria and also remember that time and how we had to pull together as a community," Koehl said.

It was a tough time on everyone. In the school's Memorial Garden, there is also a bench dedicated to all deceased Notre Dame Academy students and alumnae.

Bright, shiny new shovels in-hand, friends and relatives of the families planted a tree in Maria's honor.

"It's a particular kind of Japanese cherry tree that blooms in the Spring and is meant to be a sign of hope and renewal," Koehl said.

They had just said the final prayers for the ceremony and right before a closing hymn, Principal Koehl remarked how, after what was a cloudy, gloomy day, the skies parted for that final song and it got sunny, it really did, for just a few moments.

It gave everyone there a reason to smile and share in that shining moment with Maria.

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