Greenwood school pays tribute to teacher killed in explosion
The deadly blast not only shook a south side Indianapolis neighborhood Saturday night. It sent shockwaves through a Greenwood elementary school. Second grade teacher Jennifer Longworth and her husband died in the explosion.
Classes at Southwest Elementary and at all Greenwood Schools were delayed for two hours Monday morning, and they had counselors on hand for students and teachers.
Sunday night, students left their thoughts outside school at a candlelight memorial for teacher Jennifer Longworth. She and her husband Dion were killed in the blast that destroyed five houses and damaged 80 others. Seven people were hospitalized, and 31 houses may have to be demolished. The cause of the blast is still unknown.
After 12 years with the district, Longworth affected and impacted hundreds of lives.
"I couldn't believe it, honestly. I couldn't believe it," said Angela Purlee, a Southwest parent at Sunday's vigil. "I was like 'no, it's a mistake.'"
Kelsey Niehause was one of Longworth's students. "She was always fun. She made me want to come to school. She was an awesome teacher," said Niehause.
"I just talked to him about sometimes we don't know why things happen. And that there's a reason for everything and we just think of the good," said Nikki Burkhead, parent of a student who was in Longworth's class.
"It's the loss of a family member. That's the only way I can put it," said Dr. David Edds, Greenwood Schools superintendent.
Jennifer Longworth graduated from Center Grove High School. She started her career with Greenwood as a teacher's aide in 1998. The next year she began teaching second grade.
"School was her life. Education was her life. Young people were her life. And she was just totally invested," said Edds.
For Longworth's young students at Southwest Elementary School, it's the most difficult of life lessons. They left messages on a poster at the vigil. One student wrote, "We love you, Mrs. Longworth!"
"She would never be yelling at anyone. She would be nice and encouraging," said student Alex Ridge.
You were one of my favorite teachers read a small memorial left by a child outside school
"Thank you for being my second grade teacher, read another student' memorial.
"She has really influenced a lot of kids. We just need to keep her family, the teachers here at Southwest in our prayers," said another parent.
"You will be missed and not forgotten," read another student's note.
"I just can't believe it," said another former student .
"My mom helped as an aide," another student told us. "I always help her after school. She was always kind and sweet."
"She's a kind, giving person. She was one-of-a-kind," mom Karen Sobieray said. "She had a stuffed turtle in the bouquet that she laid here. She had Franklin turtles hanging in her room so I knew she really likes turtles."
"She laughed a lot. She always made it fun for the kids," another parent remembered. "She made me actually want to come to school," said a former student.
"She had a way of reaching out to children like no one I've ever seen; students that were difficult to reach," said Donna Jones, president of Southwest Elementary School PTO. "A joy to work with."
Jennifer's husband Dion worked for an audio production company. Funeral arrangements are still pending.