Kate Lonergan | Junior

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A day after Kate Lonergan was injured in the knife attack at Franklin Regional High School, friends took her hiking and made her laugh so hard, she feared she'd tear her stitches.

She didn't. But just knowing Kate was smiling once again was a comfort to her mother, Judy.

"No crying, just laughing and fun and support," Ms. Lonergan said Friday. "It was so nice to hear that."

Kate Lonergan

On Wednesday morning, Kate, 17, a junior, was in the science wing heading to talk with her chemistry teacher about a big exam. When she heard the fire alarm sound, she tried to leave the building, and seconds later, was slashed in the cheek and mouth.

She underwent plastic surgery at UPMC East and was released the same day.

Kate didn't want to be interviewed for this story, but Ms. Lonergan said she's making progress. Eating, and even talking, is still difficult. But she's able to keep nourished by sipping chicken soup and Ensure, and was able to move better on Friday.

"Our worry now is trying to get enough food and fluids in her because it is a big part of her ability" to dance, Ms. Lonergan said.

A member of Franklin Regional's Pantherette dance team, Kate attends the Larry Cervi School of Performing Arts in Monroeville, where she's also a classroom assistant.

"She just dances through life," said Kim Meyers Merge, co-owner of the school. "She is a beautiful person, and a beautiful dancer."

Ms. Meyers Merge said she choreographed this year's school musical "Guys and Dolls," in which Kate was a featured dancer. Once, struck by Kate's performance at a rehearsal, Ms. Meyers Merge stopped everything and said: "Kate Lonergan, you have the most beautiful smile."

An honor student, Kate would love to study chemistry at Grove City College, her mother said, but is still considering her post-high school plans.

Ms. Lonergan said she's been touched by the community's response to the attack. Flowers, balloons and stuffed animals fill the family's dining room. Old friends have written or called to share their support. At Giant Eagle, the cashier even came out and hugged Kate.

Kate must await a doctor's approval before she dances again. But the very focus that makes her a skilled athlete, as well as her faith, will help in her recovery, her mother said.

"She's a rock," Ms. Lonergan said. "I don't know that there are going to be any scars inside or out. She holds no anger. We've been praying for the [Hribal] family."

Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944.

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