Two classmates lost their lives last month. Now, the Neshaminy High School community is again shaken, this time over the terrifying bus crash Saturday night in Boston that injured dozens of students and chaperones from a variety of Bucks County schools and that left a Neshaminy sophomore athlete in critical condition.
Matt Cruz, 16, of Penndel, was on the Calvary Coach headed back to Bucks from a visit to Harvard University when it struck an overpass, injuring more than 30 of the 42 aboard.
Cruz's classmates and friends, who were reluctant Sunday to discuss his injuries, rallied around him, taking to social media to support and inform one another, some using the hashtag #PrayForMatt.
To a school already grief-stricken, the bus crash seemed an unbearable blow. In January, less than two weeks apart, Trevor Newman, 16, and Chris Mongillo, 15, were struck and killed by SEPTA Regional Rail trains. Authorities ruled Newman's death on New Year's Day an accident, and Mongillo's on Jan. 11 a suicide.
Cruz's family, along with two friends, were with him Sunday at Boston Medical Center. All declined to comment.
The following account came from Cruz's girlfriend, Crystina Tierney, and his close friend Allan Brown:
Cruz was unconscious after the 7:34 p.m. crash and was taken to Boston Medical Center, where he underwent surgery Saturday night and again Sunday morning. Hospital spokeswoman Maria Ober said Cruz remained in critical condition Sunday night.
Friends and classmates took to Twitter throughout the day, urging prayers for Cruz and even summoning Mongillo to watch over their friend.
Cruz holds sports in high regard - right after family, friends, and school, Brown said. The bus trip Saturday - organized by the Bristol Township nonprofit Destined for a Dream Foundation, which works with underprivileged and disadvantaged youth - meant Cruz had to miss a Catholic Youth Organization basketball game, Brown said. Cruz also runs outdoor track at Neshaminy.
"I know he's an amazing track runner because I used to run track with him, and he'd just leave me in the dust," said Brown, who went to school with Cruz for eight years. They now attend different high schools.
Russ Horrocks, boys' track and field coach at Neshaminy, said in a brief telephone interview he wanted to speak with the school's athletic director and Cruz's family before talking to reporters about him.
Tierney, 15, of Levittown, described her boyfriend as an athlete and a joker, "amazing at basketball" and always ready with a witty comment.
"He is a really strong kid," Tierney said, expressing regret that she couldn't do anything to help him. "Right now, I'm just hoping for the best."
By day's end, well wishes for Cruz had broadened to expressions of support for the Neshaminy High community as a whole. And a new hashtag had been added to Twitter: #StayStrongNeshaminy.