By RAF CASERT
HEVERLEE, Belgium — A torch-light march. Ravioli and meatball dinners. Rides in a funicular railway. A sing-a-long and a dress-up casino evening.
Those were some of the things that made last week “mega-cool” for 24 sixth graders at the St. Lambertus school in a hotel in Saint-Luc, high in the Swiss Alps.
The good times turned tragic Tuesday when their bus, which also carried kids from a second Belgian school, crashed inside a Swiss tunnel on its way home. Twenty-two youngsters from the two different schools died, along with six adults.
The dead included “teacher Frank,” who had set up the native-language Dutch blog that had kept parents and schoolchildren who stayed home informed about all the fun.
On Wednesday parents were flown to Switzerland to find out whether their children were still alive. Sixteen St. Lambertus students were confirmed to have survived, but the fate of eight others was unknown, at least to their families.
Nine days earlier, they had left for the holiday of their school lives in the snow-covered Alps of Switzerland, an annual highlight for St. Lambertus kids. The school is a typical, small Roman Catholic institution of some 200 pupils in Heverlee, on the outskirts of the old university town Leuven, and represents the broad mix of social classes of the municipality.
The week began flawlessly.
“This is our first blog posting,” wrote Frank Van Kerckhove, the teacher who set up the blog. “The bus trip was very smooth. There was little traffic. We watched the movie Avatar (and) no one became car sick on the climb” into the Alps.
In the days that followed, the youngsters posted about their vacation with youthful exuberance.
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