It's definitely been a rough one for Syracuse. It's been one tragedy after another. It's been all over social media. Everyone is heartbroken by it because these are people we go to school with, we've grown up with. They're in our community, —Elizabeth Wood, student
SYRACUSE — As shovels dug into dirt and people started cheering and clapping, many Syracuse residents noticed something during the groundbreaking for Centennial Park: People were smiling.
"It's really good to see the community here smiling,” said Elizabeth Wood, a junior at Syracuse High School. “It seems like it has been a long time.”
The groundbreaking Wednesday was for a disabled-friendly playground. However, for many residents, especially Syracuse High students, the park means so much more. It's a bright spot for a city that has had too much darkness recently.
Four Syracuse High students have died during the summer break.
"It's definitely been a rough one for Syracuse. It's been one tragedy after another. It's been all over social media. Everyone is heartbroken by it because these are people we go to school with, we've grown up with. They're in our community,” Wood said.
Brothers Daulton, 19, and Jaxon Whatcott, 16, died in a single-engine plane crash on July 20 just south of St. George. They were on their way to a basketball camp in Las Vegas.
Three days later, junior-to-be Ariah Bosworth died.
Then on Aug. 10, Marli Hamblin, 15, died from her injuries after getting run over in her driveway while sunbathing the day before.
For their Syracuse classmates, this should be the times of their lives. Instead, many of them are left wondering: Why?
"It was definitely an eye-opener. A lot of us never had an experience like that, and then having it happen made us realize a lot of stuff,” Wood said.
To heal, students created #SyracuseStrong, a Twitter hashtag to share stories and words of encouragement with each other.
Easton Bingham wrote, “Times are tough, but we are tougher.”
Dallin Cobabe said, “If we can stay united through the school year, I promise our high school experience will be so much better.”
Another student wrote he is dedicating the school's football season to those who died.
"It was really inspiring seeing everyone coming together, making it a positive thing and telling each other we just need to get to know each other and cherish everyone,” Wood said.
During the groundbreaking ceremony, Syracuse Mayor Terry Palmer said this was one of the most tragic summers he could remember.
"There's always good in everything, though. I do believe our youth are resilient, and they will come through in this,” Palmer said.
Syracuse High School classes resume Aug. 25.