Most people in Cottonwood have ties to the accident victims - whether as relatives, family friends, neighbors, or coaches. Now, they're drawing on the support of others to help them through their grief.
Classes were called off for the day in Cottonwood, but hundreds of people filled Lakeview School for a prayer service this morning. Jesse and Hunter Javens, Reed Stevens and Emilee Olson, such young victims, will leave such a large void in the community.
Flags hang low amid sinking hearts in the bitter Minnesota cold. Brittney Bollmer said, "I've never experienced this before in our community, personally, I don't have words to explain it. It's very solemn, quiet... I don't know what to say to anybody."
The young bus crash victims touched many lives in this close-knit community. Cory Sumerfelt said, "It's tough for a lot of families. You know them all. I lost some neighbor's kids and I knew them well, too." (Shown clockwise from top left) Hunter Javens, 9, and his brother Jesse Javens, 13, both of Cottonwood; Emilee Olson, 9, of Cottonwood; and Reed Stevens, 12, of Marshall, MN.
Jim Selbo said, "It's tragedy. This is the hardest thing that I've seen this community to have to go through, and I've been here for 15 years."
Jim Selbo forged a bond with Hunter Javens on the basketball court. "I coached hunter in basketball this year, he's friends with my son in the same grade, my wife is very good friends with their mother so we're very close and it hurts all of us very deeply."
People in Cottonwood are turning to the power of prayer and community to guide them down the path of healing. Selbo said, "This is a great community to be a part of, they come together as a family and help each other out and that's how you get through these things."
Sumerfelt said, "There isn't a bad kid in the bunch. And they're all going to be missed."
The people we spoke with today in Cottonwood said they're confident their town will recover emotionally from the loss, but it will take time, and more tears.