The paved yard at San Gabriel High School--a place usually echoing between classes with the noisy chatter of busy students--was eerily silent Monday.
A floral memorial, bedecked with a black ribbon, stood alone at the center of the 56-acre campus. Flags flew at half-staff, a few hundred yards from where a powerful onrush of flood water in the Alhambra Wash swept three students to their deaths last week.
Monday was a day of attempting to come to terms with those deaths.
Students and staff wore black ribbons on their chests to honor the teenagers. Counselors met with many students to help those struggling with unfamiliar emotions talk about how they felt.
"Everyone is taking it hard," said sophomore Lillie Lorenz, a friend of the victims.
At the beginning of the school day, there was a moment of silence in every classroom for the three who died--Griselda Gallo, 14, Dulce Castruita, 14, and her brother Raul Nahle, 17.
Each teacher read a statement from Principal Linda Maryott.
"These students will be missed, not only by their families but by friends, teachers and other staff," Maryott said. "I hope that their deaths are not in vain, but will serve to remind students that washes are flood channels. . . . A wash can be dry one moment and become a raging torrent of water in an instant."
Students honored the memory of the teenagers in personal ways.
Some "decorated their chairs," said freshman Anita Ramirez. "Dulce's name was 'Candy,' so they placed candy and flowers on her chair."
Others wore T-shirts that read: "In memory of Raul, Dulce and Griselda."
Maryott gave thanks for the two students who escaped from the storm-fed torrent--Efrain Arrellano, 15, and Georgina Estrada, 14. Neither of the survivors attended school Monday.
Efrain, however, had helped wash cars over the Thanksgiving weekend to raise money for the funerals. Friends of the victims collected donations before school Monday, and the school donated its annual Christmas fund for the needy to the families of the deceased.
But the main effort Monday was to deal with the pain in the wake of Wednesday's tragedy.
"They are feeling the loss in the classrooms this morning," said Assistant Principal Michael Donnelly. "They are going to walk in, and there will be an empty desk."
Donnelly said the pain extends beyond the victims' close friends to the scores of others who at some time have wandered near the normally tranquil wash beside the campus.
Teachers of those claimed by the waters were not immune, Donnelly said. He said one teacher who had both girls in ninth-grade class was in tears after the fatal accident.
"What is most disheartening to teachers is to see the loss of these bright futures," Donnelly said. "To have these young lives swept away in a river."
Donnelly pointed to a wall poster printed with a grimly appropriate message:
"Good judgment comes from experience . . . and experience comes from poor judgment." The deaths of three teenagers have raised questions as to whether school officials had gone far enough in patrolling the area near the wash.
The five teenagers caught in the flood waters were supposed to have been in class. That day, they cut across the wash to visit a nearby convenience store. A rope ladder dangling into the wash was removed by school officials after the tragedy.
Maryott said the school has a closed campus and that the area is patrolled but not under constant surveillance.
Several students went to the site Monday, to stand atop an earthen bank on the west side of the campus.
"We were looking down the wash," said Priscilla Pimentel. "It's hard to believe."