Liberty community looking to honor those lost

Chandler Clinging

It's common for schools to celebrate the achievements of their students.

They may showcase it in a trophy case, an honor roll or a photo in a frame.

This year, the Liberty School District has had the difficult task of honoring the lives of three students lost this past summer.

"I can't even begin to describe. It was rough for me and they weren't my children," Gina Genenbacher said.

July 7th devastated the Fowler and Liberty communities when 18-year-old Dakota Cantrell lost his life in an ATV accident.

Less than a month later, on August 3rd, 16-year-old Cassaundra Clinging and her 12-year-old brother, Chandler, died in a car crash. All three were students in the Liberty School District.

"We were really concerned with how the students would take coming back to school after being here for three funerals in the gym," Carper said.

Karen Carper says she and other school administrators made a point of welcoming each student into school that first day.

"It was hard for them to walk into first hour knowing the students were supposed to be in there," Carper said.

Months later, it's still difficult to talk about.

"We've just had such a great amount of loss over the summer that we just wanted a way to remember them positively," Carper said.

Gina Genenbacher and a group of Liberty parents designed a memorial to be placed at the school.

"We wanted it outside so when you drove up to school, it was very visible," Genenbacher said.

Underneath this pergola, you'll find this engraved stone surrounded by the memories of those lost too soon.

"We don't want this memorial just to be about the three students. We want it to be about all students that were lost in the student body at Liberty High School and Elementary School," Genenbacher said.

Included in the memorial will be the names of ten other students from the Liberty School District.

"I'm sure when students go by there, they're going to remember their time spent and memories with the students," Carper said.

The memorial is only in the beginning stages.

Gina Genenbacher says it will cost about eight thousand dollars to build.

She's asking for community donations in hopes of breaking ground on the project next spring.

If you would like to donate to the memorial, you can send contributions to the Liberty Education Foundation, care of the Clinging/Cantrell memorial, to Farmers Bank in Liberty. The address is P.O. Box 196, Liberty, Ill. 62347.