Students from Pottstown and Pottsgrove High Schools texted one another and posted information on Facebook and MySpace this weekend as news developed of another fatal car crash - the second in three weeks.
At the same time, using more traditional methods, school officials called one another and put together a plan to help those grieving deal with their feelings when school opened yesterday.
Andrea Antonio-Harris, 16, and Breanna Brothers, 15, both students at Pottstown, died Saturday night when a 2003 Dodge Durango they were in with four other youths overturned on Route 100 between Farmington and Moyer Roads in Upper Pottsgrove.
The driver, an 18-year-old male whom police did not identify, was trapped. Two 17-year-old girls and a 12-year-old girl were also not identified.
At least one of the students was from Pottsgrove, and another was from Boyertown Junior High School West.
The accident was similar to one on Nov. 23 in which two of six Pottsgrove High students were killed when the Honda SUV in which they were riding went out of control on Route 724 in East Coventry, Chester County.
"I thought it was a joke," said Spring Cornell, a Pottstown High senior who learned of the crash on Facebook at a sleepover. "It scared me. It was out of the blue."
Cornell, 17, who played on the school's softball team with Antonio-Harris, said her teammate "was always the one to make you laugh."
Brothers, she said, was known for her "cool" bright pink and purple hair.
"I looked up to her," Cornell said of Brothers. "She expressed herself in a way other people couldn't."
Amber Raucho, 16, said she knew the girls as "very close friends." The deaths, she said, upset the entire school.
"Everyone cried all day," she said.
John J. Armato, director of community relations for the Pottstown School District, said teachers were instructed on how to support their classes, giving all students an opportunity to express their feelings.
The high school's counselors and others from throughout the district were available to help students in smaller groups.
A memorial art project was started so students could write their feelings and remembrances. The banners will be presented to the families, Armato said.
The parents of the two girls met with school officials, he said, and were trying to cope with "the sudden and unexpected loss" of their children. No funeral plans had been released.
Police were continuing to investigate the cause of this weekend's crash. The weather at the time was clear and dry, they said.
"We're sad for the Pottstown High School community, but relieved that one of the [Pottsgrove] students had minor injuries, and we're pulling for the other to come through," Pottsgrove Superintendent Bradley Landis said.
Dave Gaugler, 58, picked up his 16-year-old daughter at Pottstown High after school yesterday. He said the two accidents had made him think about letting his daughter get her license.
"I think [the driving age] should be moved to 18," he said.
Pottsgrove counselors were again available yesterday, but only a trickle of students sought help dealing with this second blow.
Landis said the district also planned to conduct educational sessions on safe driving, because both accidents featured inexperienced drivers and too many passengers.
"We need to work with parents and with students to get that message across in as many ways as we can," Landis said.