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Students mourn lost friend

They released balloons with wishes of love, went on long — walks, talked for hours with counselors, spelled her name with poppies — in the school yard and cried many tears.

Ashland Middle School students slowly absorbed the shock — of classmate Tracy Dewey's death in a fall Saturday from a 100-foot wall — at Fort Rock about 120 miles northeast of Medford.

On the climb this weekend, Dewey, 13, and classmate Lily — Bright hiked to the top of the dramatic, horseshoe-shaped feature. Halfway — down the steep inside wall, Tracy fell to the bottom and was killed instantly, — said her father, Paul Dewey of Ashland.

"I heard her scream, and I knew it was Tracy, and I knew — what had happened," said Paul Dewey, who was hiking atop the old volcanic — feature at the time. Bright witnessed the fall and was trapped in the — niche Tracy fell from for four hours before a search and rescue team from — the Lake County Sheriff's Office reached her.

Ashland middle schoolers got the news Monday morning as — they arrived to school. Classes were suspended for a "free-flowing" day — of grief and talking out feelings, said AMS child development specialist — Jody Bradley.

"The kids found each other, hugged, cried and walked to — the park and back," said Bradley. "Teachers were sitting on floors hugging — crying students. It's such a hugely traumatic experience. So many people — knew her and are just devastated."

At the family's home, Paul Dewey, comforting Tracy's older — sister, Amy, described Tracy as someone "very outspoken, very funny, with — an acute wit, who loved to write poetry in recent years." Amy goes to — Ashland High.

Tracy's bedroom wall was covered with pictures of rock — idols, a big butterfly and large silver stars.

"She was always smiling and happy," said classmate Kyle — Schless, who'd known her since third grade. "Today has been real hard. — I couldn't believe it."

"She was bubbly, always happy and she made me feel good," — said classmate Alison Wren, a close friend. "It's been real hard. It doesn't — seem real."

Cheyenne Peters, her best friend in grade school, said, — "I cried forever - the most I've ever cried. She was so fun. We did all — sorts of crazy stuff I never thought I'd do. She was the kind of person — that, when things were really bad, she could make them good. She would — light up a room with her smile."

School nurse Belinda Brown sat with students for hours — at the impromptu floral shrine outdoors, noting, "They're handling it — pretty well, given the traumatic nature of the event. I had 30 kids I — worked with initially, all talking, crying and sharing other experiences — of deaths of parents, siblings and grandparents - a significant number — in the immediate families - and how scary it is."

Tracy's friend Hannah Grierson has been there before, — but said Monday's grief and loss was "surreal."

"My father died three years ago and I'm kind of used to — this but it's still surreal," Hannah said. "We take so much for granted — about the people we care for."

"I just saw her at soccer two weeks ago - she was here — and now not here. It's just weird," said Dahna Black. "We've all been — crying a lot."

Especially needing support were kids who were in the usual — cycle of teen spats and disagreements at the time of Dewey's death - friends — who might have felt inappropriate guilt or even responsibility for it, — Brown said.

"She was very well liked," Brown said. "But no one can — see this kind of thing coming" so as to have time to make amends.

"It's been like a big shock," said classmate Naomi Salisbury, — "I was talking with a friend who'd been in a bad relationship with her — and it was really hard for her."

Students inscribed a banner to be hung in the commons, — and helium balloons were released into the sunny morning wind.

On the banner, classmate Amanda Greenstein wrote, "Tracy, — you were such an amazing person. Our time spent together now means so — much to me. I hope you are in a better place."

Wren wrote, "I cried a thousand tears for you and I'll — cry a thousand more. It will be you I'm looking for when I knock on heaven's — door. I miss you, babe, and I'm sorry I never finished your landscape — of French braids."

Strangely, said Wren, the two talked a few months ago — about the best way to die if they could choose it and they both said it — would be falling, because it was "most like flying."

With classmate Gabriel Granach on guitar, they sang "Forever — Young" and "Stairway to Heaven." They wrote cards to Tracy's family and — planned a plaque and the planting of a tree in her memory.

"I never imagined a community could come together with — such loving support, especially the kids," said Paul Dewey. "I've never — seen anything like it. The search and rescue people were the same way."

"She was a very positive person," said Principal Dale — Rooklyn. "She was a very happy and sweet child. We're all very shocked — and distraught."

In addition to her father and sister, Tracy is survived — by her brother, Benjamin, and her mother, Petra Dewey, of New York City. — There will be a memorial gathering Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. at her — home at 2530 Siskiyou Blvd.