Thursday, August 29, 2002

Girls' deaths stun Lebanon High




By Sue Kiesewetter, suek@infi.net
Enquirer contributor

        LEBANON — The poignant messages filled a poster at Lebanon High School and spilled onto a second sheet, each trying to ease the pain felt by students after the deaths Tuesday of juniors Katie Aylor and Brandi Cook in an auto accident.

        “My heart is with you both. See you in heaven,” read one message.

        “I'll miss you guys. I hope people can understand how precious life is now. Jesus loves you,” read another.

Brandi Cook
Brandi Cook
Katie Aylor
Katie Aylor
        By midafternoon several roses had been placed on a bench below the heartfelt posters to honor the two 16-year-olds who classmates say loved to dance, were everyone's friend and always had smiles on their faces.

        “It was a hard day for everyone,” said 16-year-old Michelle Downing. “We lost two of our best friends.”

        Authorities say Brandi lost control of her 1999 Ford Escort on a curve of Oregonia Road near Ohio 123 in Turtlecreek Township and swerved onto the right berm. Then she overcorrected and crossed the center line into the path of a 1998 Mack truck, which crushed the Escort.

        Ohio State Highway Patrol officers are still reconstructing the 5:15 p.m. Tuesday accident, but they say the Escort's speed on the 55 mph road was a factor. Both girls were wearing seat belts.

        No charges will be filed against the truck driver, Christopher Lutmer, 22, of Lebanon, officers said.

FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS
Brandi Cook
   
Visitation 6 to 9 p.m. today, Cornerstone Church of God, 1004 Columbus Ave., Lebanon. Services are at 10 a.m. Friday at the church.
Katie Aylor
   
Visitation 5 to 9 p.m. today, Oswald-Hoskins Funeral Home, 329 E. Mulberry St., Lebanon. Katie's funeral will be held jointly with Brandi's at 10 a.m. Friday at Cornerstone Church of God. Memorials: Katie Aylor Memorial Scholarship, Lebanon High School, 160 Miller Road, Lebanon, OH 45036.
        “I'm still waiting for Katie and Brandi to walk in,” said Lebanon junior Megan Hawley, 17, who drove to school Wednesday, but had her mom follow her. “I feel a portion of my heart has been taken away.”

        Tuesday night a dozen girls who were friends with Brandi and Katie gathered to talk about the fun they'd had and the silly things they'd done together, dancing at Katie's birthday party and rollerblading in her basement. On Wednesday they made T-shirts to wear in their friends' honor.

        “Everyone liked Katie and Brandi. They had a great attitude and were fun to be around,” said Ciara Borer, 16. “I still can't believe my friends — so dear — are gone.”

        Because both girls loved wearing bandannas, classmates are being urged to buy and wear them during today's and Friday's spirit sale.

        But at school Wednesday the mood was somber.

        Counselors and ministers were set up in the auditorium to help students and staff cope with the deaths. And Katie's older brother, Joel, a senior, spoke with his sister's friends.

        “He spoke from the heart and gave a testimonial of life — telling the students to take advantage of each moment, to take care of their loved ones,” said Principal Sam Ison.

        At nearby Donovan Intermediate School, counselors were also on hand to talk with staff who work with Katie's mom, Karol Aylor, who teaches fourth grade.

        During her years in Lebanon, Katie was on the honor roll and began cheerleading in elementary school, continuing through her freshman year. She also played community soccer, Mr. Ison said.

        Brandi was a member of the Optimist and Ski clubs, and was an aide in the guidance department, he said.

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