Mohamed Fofana and Haysem Sani
St. Paul Fire Department's photo of the collapse location at Lilydale Park.
ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn -- The school day at Peter Hobart Elementary began with a lesson that came far too early in life.
"It's just so sad to think something that tragic had to happen to innocent kids," said sixth grader Grace Hayden, who remembered her trip to Lilydale park not long ago.
Counselors and therapy dogs filed in and out of the school all day, and the sorrow was painfully visible as students and strangers contributed to a growing memorial, leaving handwritten notes and stuffed animals. Someone even left a book about heaven, and fresh lilacs remembering fourth graders Haysem Sani and Mohamed Fofana, who died in a sudden mudslide on their fossil collecting field trip yesterday to Lilydale Park.
"We are just heartbroken and this is something I felt I could do, so I prayed all the way here, and I left a note and some flowers and I will pray all the way back home," said neighbor Laurie Amos.
The St. Louis Park school district held a press conference outside the school but declined to release any information about the students who died or were injured. Principal Shelley Nielsen said she personally spoke to the families impacted, and said they ask for privacy during this devastating time.
She also asked anyone interested in donating to the families do so by stopping at the Citizens Independent Bank in St. Louis Park.
"For many of our students this may be the very time they have dealt with a tragedy of this magnitude losing a classmate or anyone at all in their life," said Nielsen.
Parent Tami Cabrera stopped outside to bring balloons to the memorial. She has a fourth grader who was supposed to be on that field trip.
"I never knew that kind of panic where your heart stops," she said. "I think this will be years and years of reflection of this day."
Now Cabrera is organizing donations for the victims' families, knowing her moment of panic cannot compare to their lifetime of heartache.
Cabrera owns the Muddy Paws Cheesecake Company in St. Louis Park and will help the Peter Hobart PTA with a silent auction on June 1st. Cabrera is asking anyone with donations to the auction drop items off at her business between 10am and 2pm through May 28th. The money raised will directly go to the victim's families.
People interested in helping can email Muddy Paws Cheesecake or drop off donations at 7600 West 27th Street, Commons B in St. Louis Park. An online donation page is also in the works.
On Friday, Governor Mark Dayton will attend a gathering at Peter Hobart Elementary School to honor the victims.
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