WHS reacts to death of senior
By Lynn R. Parks
The day before she died, Tori Ferrell stopped in to see her guidance counselor. She needed help with an essay she had to write for a college application.
“The essay topic was, ‘How would your friends describe you?’” said counselor Karen Heyd. “I told her that her friends would describe her as original, not afraid to be herself. As someone who they could go to for advice, and wouldn’t judge. As smart, athletic, a beautiful writer and a loving person.
“She was surprised. She said, ‘They would say all that about me?’ And the next day, all her friends said just those things.”
Tori , 17, Greenwood, was killed in a car accident the day before Thanksgiving. That evening, about 70 friends gathered at Union United Methodist Church, Bridgeville, to tell what Woodbridge High School principal called “Tori stories.”
“We all stood in a circle and held hands,” said Heyd. “Some kids prayed, one played the piano, and they talked. They said the things about Tori that I had told her her friends would say.”
In the yard of Union church is still a sign which reads, “We love you Tori.”
On Monday, David Ferrell, Richmond, Ind., and Annabelle and Stephen Tatman, with whom Tori lived, visited the high school to talk with students who had known their daughter. They joined counselors in the auditorium where, just two days before, they had come together for her funeral. Students who wanted to could talk with them throughout the day and listen to the Beatles recordings Tori loved.
Tori died at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, Seaford, after the accident at the intersection of US 13 and the Redden Road near Bridgeville. According to state police, the crash happened at about 4:45 p.m. when a 1998 Ford Expedition driven by John Vallandingham, Cape May, N.J., ran a red light and hit Tori’s 1995 Plymouth Neon. Vallandingham, his wife and their baby daughter were treated at Nanticoke and released.
“Tori was the kind of kid who appealed to everybody,” said Hassman. “She didn’t judge people by their social status in school, but rather by what kind of person they were. She was very sensitive, caring and kind. If she had a mean bone in her body, you didn’t know it.”
Tori was involved in many school activities, Hassman said. A French student, she was a member of the school’s French club and the French National Honor Society. She was in the National Honor Society and the Key Club, and served on the prom and yearbook committees.
She also played on the school’s field hockey team.
Heyd said that the high school senior was a very good writer and was considering a career in journalism. Tori kept extensive journals in which she recorded “insights like no other I have seen from a teenager.”
Tori’s final entry in her journal, made on Tuesday, focused on a discussion from that day’s POD class. Quoting her teacher Ryan Pickett, she wrote, “Never leave without telling your loved ones how you feel. And never take anything for granted.”
“It is almost like she knew,” Heyd said. “She always talked about death in a positive sense. Her father said that he believes that some people are supposed to live a full life in just 17 years. If so, that was Tori.”
Heyd said that Tori’s life is exemplified in her struggle over the quote that was to accompany her senior picture in the yearbook. She had been struggling with a decision for much of the year, Heyd said, and wrote recently in her journal that she had decided on a quote by Leonardo daVinci:
“As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well used brings happy death.”
Hassman, who learned of Tori’s death Wednesday night, said that he was immediately concerned for students at the school. “In my 31 years in education, I have been through this type of thing before, and it is never easy,” he said. “It is hard for teenagers. They feel shock over the loss of a good friend, and a sense of disbelief that something like this could ever happen.”
Hassman added that a student’s death is even harder in a small school. Tori’s class at Woodbridge has about 100 students in it, he said.
“In a small school, everybody is friends with everybody. And Tori was the kind of kid who had a relationship with everybody, from freshmen to seniors. She was just a great kid.”