The Greenwood High School community is coping with tragedy just days before the Thanksgiving. A weekend wreck in the Midlands killed 4 people, including 16 year old junior, Cooper Gunnells and his grandparents.
Monday, students gathered to pay tribute to one of their own with songs, cards and flowers.
“Dear Cooper, how’s heaven,” read one card.
For those who knew him, they say Gunnells probably walked through heavens gates like he rolled through the halls of Greenwood High with a smile on his face.
“[He was] just a friendly kid. You know, he probably had every reason to be upset or have hard feelings because he was a handicapped child, but he never let that bother him,” said Principal Chad Evans.
Evans said the disability wasn’t a barrier.
A talented trumpet player, Cooper was in the marching band and Friday nights he’d be rolled on the field by his grandfather, Harry Gunnells. This past Friday night, however, Harry, Cooper and his grandmother, Barbara, were on their way to a concert when a pickup truck crossed the center line. According to the coroner, it hit a van which crashed into the Gunnells’ SUV, killing them and the driver of the pickup truck.
“Most of the kids are heartbroken. If they knew Cooper, no doubt they are sad today,” said Evans.
Monday, the growing memorial of cards and flowers was just a small reminder of how much Cooper Gunnells was loved by students and faculty at Greenwood High. Student and friend, Sandra Brissey, said Cooper went out of his way to make her smile.
“He was the first person I ever met,” Brissey explained.
From middle school on, Cooper and Brissey were inseparable.
“When I found out, I kind of didn’t want to believe it,” she explained.
Brissey said Cooper had a love of life and of music.
“In marching band, he would be like “that’s where I feel free because I can get lost in the music and kind of forget about the world,” she said.
Now, Brissey said, he is free and, in the words of his band mates, “soaring high, running around, and maybe even flying.”
The school says they will be holding an official memorial and place a stone in the high school’s memorial garden. A service for cooper will be held this Wednesday at 4pm at Harley Funeral Home Chapel.