In sync with the "FR Strong" signs on lawns along Old William Penn Highway and T-shirts in the aisles of the Ferri's ShurSave grocery store in Murrysville, the focus at the first Franklin Regional School District board meeting since the April 9 knife attack by a 16-year-old student was on fortitude.
"After such a terrible tragedy the hidden strengths of individuals have emerged to make all of us stronger. Prior preparation for the unthinkable helped minimize the number and perhaps severity of those injured," Larry Borland, Franklin Regional school board president, read in a statement to a room crowded with reporters and television cameras Monday night. "Triage and treatment were top notch. ... Heroic actions abounded."
Nearly three weeks after a student stormed through the hallways with a pair of knives, stabbing 20 students and a security guard, what exactly motivated him to carry out the attack remains unclear.
"We hope that answers to many of the most troublesome questions will someday be answered," Mr. Borland said, pledging that the school district -- aided by experts and outside organizations -- would conduct its own extensive review of the attack and the response, including the district's security procedures, threat assessment, mental health services and preparedness. "The members of the board join to thank God that all the injured have survived."
Sophomore Greg Keener, 15, who had been in critical condition since the knife attack, was transferred out of the intensive care unit Monday and is now listed in fair condition at Forbes Hospital, a spokesman there said. He had been stabbed in the liver and was on a ventilator for days. He and Connor Warwick, 16, who also is in fair condition, are the only two students who remain hospitalized.
The suspect, Alex Hribal, a junior from Murrysville, remains in the Westmoreland County juvenile detention center, charged as an adult with 21 counts of attempted homicide, 21 counts of aggravated assault and a single count of carrying a weapon on school property.
His preliminary hearing, originally set for Wednesday, has been rescheduled to May 9 at the request of his attorney.
Prosecutors on Friday added 17 counts of attempted homicide after police found a document in Alex's locker that said, in part, that he wanted to hurt his fellow students.
As teachers and students attempt to return to a normal school routine, the board did likewise, recognizing the Franklin Regional robotics team, just 3 years old, for a second-place finish at a March 25 competition at California University of Pennsylvania that featured 44 other teams.
"Each day there are new things we feel better about," said Mary Catherine Reljac, an assistant superintendent and spokeswoman for the school district, who added that she was encouraged by seeing "kids act like kids" again at Franklin Regional. "And there are things that us take us a couple of steps back."
Mrs. Reljac said counselors are still available at the school and will be until administrators decide otherwise.
"Sometimes trauma and the feelings that go along with that don't appear on the outside," she said.
Superintendent Gennaro Piraino said he was "personally grateful" and "humbled" by the many students and teachers who put themselves in harm's way to aid the injured, the efforts of first responders and the outpouring of support from across the country.
"We recognize that we are only at the beginning of the healing process and we still have many hurdles to face. However, together I have hope that we will continue to move forward and truly define what it means to be FR strong."
Robert Zullo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3909. Twitter: @rczullo. Staff writer Molly Born contributed. First Published April 28, 2014 11:56 AM