Young people in Cumbria share sadness over shootings

By Caroline Henderson
BBC News in Whitehaven

Image caption, Annemarie and Stuart have been talking to friends

Studying for exams is the last thing on the minds of Keswick School pupils Stuart Richardson and Annemarie Quinn after the shootings by taxi driver Derrick Bird.

The 18-year-olds, who are the school's head boy and head girl, were still grieving the loss of fellow pupils Kieran Goulding, 15, and Chloe Walker, 16, in a bus crash on the A66 when Bird went on his rampage.

They said pupils at the school had been talking to each other, as well as speaking to counsellors and psychologists, as they tried to come to terms with the tragedies that have struck Cumbria in recent weeks.

"We have been talking in groups about everything that's happened," Stuart said. "It helps talking with your friends.

"On top of everything else we are all just getting over the Cumbrian floods six months ago."

Annemarie, who is due to sit her first A Level exam on Wednesday, said: "It just doesn't seem important at the moment.

"People feel it's hard to carry on like normal because we don't want to ignore what's happened."

Lanterns were lit by Keswick School pupils last Friday night in memory of Chloe and Kieran.

Annemarie and Stuart were at Chloe's funeral when they heard about the shootings on Wednesday.

"I did not believe it at first," Stuart said. "Nothing like this would ever happen here.

"I am not sure if the younger pupils are coping with it all."

Annemarie said: "We were all so drained by everything, we couldn't talk anymore. I stopped watching the news after the gun shootings.

"It was just too much."

Bird, 52, killed 12 people and wounded 11 others before shooting himself.

To help people like Annemarie and Stuart, the west Cumbria branch of the Samaritans, based in Whitehaven, which usually only takes telephone calls at weekends, will open its doors on Saturday and Sunday.

Image caption, The Samaritans centre in Whitehaven will be open over the weekend

Anyone affected by the shootings will be able to talk to trained counsellors in person.

The manager of the Samaritans centre, who gave his name as Steve, said: "My 15-year-old daughter Lizy had the idea.

"This (Whitehaven town centre) is where teenagers congregate at the weekend. We can be a service to them and anyone else who wants to come here."

Lizy and her friends had been using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to help each other cope.

"We were talking to each other online but journalists started contacting us and we felt invaded," she said.

"We wanted somewhere to go to talk about it all. Being able to talk about how you're feeling really helps."

The Samaritans centre on Church Street in Whitehaven will be open from 1000 BST until 1800 BST on Saturday and Sunday.

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