ATHENS, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Funeral services have been scheduled for Friday for Christopher Bonilla, the 13-year-old middle school student killed in a school bus collision with a train.
“He always liked to make people laugh,” says a 7th grade classmate and cousin, identified by school officials as Kaylani. “He liked seeing people happy, he would always put everybody else before himself.”
The collision last Friday sent shockwaves through the Henderson County town and had school leaders scrambling over the weekend to get support in place for students returning to class Monday.
“We know there will be better days ahead,” said Toni Clay, Athens ISD Communications Coordinator. We’re not there yet.”
Over the weekend, a social media movement dubbed #MaroonOnMonday encouraged students to wear maroon to send a message of support to the teen’s family.
The idea spread so fast that the racks of a downtown printing shop, Athens Screen Printing, were left bare. And the show of support didn’t stop in Athens.
Schools across Texas soon followed suit. And in the face of such loss, the effort even gave the community something to do.
“We’re a small community, so it’s important that we all get along and support each other,” said Corey Frentress as he hurried to a buy a maroon hoodie on his lunch break– one of the few items left in the downtown printing shop.
Additional counselors are in place at every campus in the district. And for some students, extra support was visible as soon as they got on the bus.
“On the routes where we feel like children would most likely need additional reassurance,” explained Clay, while adding that a school resource office Monday rode along with students on the route involved in the fatal train collision.
“He was there this morning greeting children as they got on the bus, and he’ll be there this afternoon doing the same thing.”
Throughout the small community, they are coming together to share comfort, and remember Christopher, who classmates say loved to play Fortnite, football and soccer.
“I’m feeling sad,” shared Franky, a 7th grade classmate. “I can’t think straight. It’s hard right now.”
And students are not alone in this season of shared grief.
“We’ve never lost a student before while in our care,” said Clay. “This word is being used a lot, but, the only word I can think of is ‘devastation’… we are absolutely devastated. And that doesn’t begin to compare with what the family is going through.”
A relative told CBS 11 that Christopher’s mother is too distraught to speak publicly, but wished to express the family’s appreciation for the outpouring of support, having noticed all of the #MaroonOnMonday messages.
A 9-year-old injured in the crash is improving and has been moved out of ICU.