Leslie Grossman, a Huntington Beach teen-ager killed in a motorcycle accident earlier this week, was remembered Thursday as a loving, outgoing girl with a ready smile who was always there for her friends.
“A daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin, close friend, schoolmate and employee, she touched the lives of many. She was something different to each of us, but always special,” Pastor Randy McWhorter said at a memorial service for Leslie.
About 150 people attended the Thursday evening service at Dilday Brothers Chapel in Huntington Beach.
According to friends and relatives, Leslie was a good student, McWhorter said.
“But at 16, school was not most important. At 16, friends were most important. She wanted to fit in and be a part of the crowd,” he said.
McWhorter read from the letter of a close friend of Leslie who said that she could be described in one word--"sparkle.”
“ ‘It seems the one reason she was put on earth was to make others laugh. Thank you for sharing your sparkle,’ ” he read.
After the 30-minute service, friends and relatives, most weeping, filed past a memorial to Leslie that was ringed with flowers, her favorite stuffed animals and snapshots of the teen-ager, who seemed always to be wearing a smile.
Leslie died Sunday when she was thrown from a motorcycle that had struck a car on Pacific Coast Highway southeast of Warner Avenue.
The girl, who was not wearing a helmet, was killed instantly. The driver of the motorcycle, Scott Melnyczok, 18, escaped with minor injuries. He was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and felony drunk driving.
As family and friends grieved, classmates and teachers of the Huntington Beach High School junior also tried to come to terms with their loss.
“There is a lot of anger over the fact that she chose to go on the motorcycle with someone who had been drinking, yet she was the one who was killed,” said Carol Schubeck, a clinical social worker with the Los Altos Hospital and Resource Center in Long Beach. “Kids have been coming in all week since this happened,” school counselor and psychologist Ellen Shiro said. “Something like this causes guilt, anger, (feelings of) vulnerability, and it is very important that students have a chance to reprocess those feelings in a way that is healing.”
Teachers and staff, too, have had to cope with a variety of feelings, Schubeck said. When Leslie’s death was announced Monday, many teachers were in tears and could barely conduct classes, she said.
“Teachers feel a responsibility for their students, for guiding and providing for them,” Schubeck said. “There are also feelings of failure, that they haven’t done a good enough job of protecting the student.”
Still, school officials said the trauma and disruptions were minimized because the school had a crisis-management plan in place.
The plan, initiated this school year, calls for verifying an incident, acting to prevent rumors, protecting the privacy of the family, helping students cope with the death, communicating news beyond the school, dealing with parents and bringing in resources from the community.
“We were able to make the proper checking, the proper announcements, and to get the proper support,” Assistant Principal Jim Landey said.