Thursday, June 08, 2000

Girl's death leaves school, community wrestling with loss

By Janice Morse and Sue Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Lindenwald, a fiercely proud working-class neighborhood in the city's southeast section, is hurting.

        The close-knit community, where many residents remain throughout their lives, is feeling the loss of Megan Toler, 13. She was killed Tuesday, a day shy of finishing seventh grade at George Washington Junior High, when she walked into the path of a tractor-trailer near her school bus stop.

        At the Dairy Mart that overlooks the accident scene on U.S. 127, clerks Susan Watson and manager Alice Smith tried not to look out the windows Wednesday.

        “Every time you look out, you stare out into space and wish it hadn't happened,” said Ms. Watson, a Lindenwald mother of two. “I thank God I didn't see the impact itself.”

        Discussions of Megan's death dominated conversation Tuesday and Wednesday in the small store that neighborhood children regularly visit before and after school to buy gum or candy.

        “A lot of customers that were here called yesterday and today (Wednesday) asking about her,” Ms. Smith said. “Every time we look out, we see her.”

        At Megan's school, students were quieter than usual for a last day before summer vacation, said assistant principal Stephany Carson.

        A team of six counselors talked with students who were having difficulty coping with their classmate's death in the midst of final exams.

        The students made signs, banners and posters for Megan's family. Many classmates made and wore small purple ribbons as a tribute to the shy, studious, well- liked girl.

        Megan was born Oct. 6, 1986, in Cincinnati.

        She was an honor student at the junior high, and before that, at Pierce Elementary.

        Survivors include her mother, Lorri L. Kiefer, and her mother's fiance, Jeff Banks; father, Douglas W.; brother, Douglas P.; and sister, Ally M., all of Hamilton; and grandparents John and Wanda Kiefer of Fairfield, and Mable Knight in Missouri.

        Services will be 10 a.m. Saturday at the Webb Noonan Funeral Home, Ross Avenue at D Street, Hamilton, where friends may call from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday.

        The family requests memorial contributions be made to Pierce Elementary School, c/o Hamilton City School District, 332 Dayton St., Hamilton, 45011.

        This fall, donations will be accepted to plant a tree in Megan's memory during a ceremony in the circle in front of the school.

        The tree and plaque will join three others that commemorate the 1995 death of a teacher, and the 1996 and 1997 deaths of two students killed in gun accidents.


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