FORT SCOTT, KS—In the wake of a car accident that claimed the lives of four promising high schoolers, Fort Scott mayor Thomas Dietrich told reporters Monday that his shattered community had come together as one, acknowleged its horrible loss, and decided to "just call it quits."
"In devastating times such as these, reaching down deep and finding hope simply isn't possible," said Dietrich, who planned to resign his post later that afternoon. "The untimely deaths of star pole-vaulter Rich Jenkins, honor roll students Jamie Eisenhard and Beth Armonk, and senior class treasurer Kyle MacIntyre are more than we as a town can bear, much less use as an experience through which to learn about ourselves and grow closer, emerging from our collective grief stronger than we were before."
"Honestly, I don't see the people of Fort Scott looking to one another for solace during this trying time, or really looking to one another for anything ever again," Dietrich continued. "This is all just so…sad. Much, much too sad for us to pick up the pieces and bravely move forward."
In the days since the accident, Fort Scott has not seen an outpouring of mutual support, and the intersection where the teens were killed remains completely free of any improvised memorials featuring flowers, poems, snapshots, or crosses. According to Dietrich, a candlelight vigil in the center of town was "totally out of the question," as residents determined it would not bring any closure to the situation at all and would, instead, make everyone even sadder.
Sources at Fort Scott High School said there are also no plans to honor the students' memories with an annual scholarship or even a dedication in the 2010 yearbook, the printing of which has been canceled altogether in the face of such overwhelming adversity.
"Reflecting on the lives of these amazing kids and how they touched so many during their short time with us—who in their right mind would want to do that?" Dietrich said. "It would only remind us all of how awful and insurmountable this whole situation already is. No, we have to gather ourselves up and begin to look to the future. Specifically, a future in which we abandon this doomed place and go our own separate ways."
"It's what Rich, Jamie, Beth, and Kyle would have wanted," Dietrich added.
According to the mayor's office, the healing process will never begin, and the emotional scars left by the tragedy will remain open, festering wounds, worsening each year, for decade upon decade, until every resident of Fort Scott is dead and the memory of this horrifying event can finally be laid to rest.
"One day we'll all be able to look back at this and feel just as heartbroken, helpless, and angry as we do right now," Dietrich said. "We could perhaps find some solace in the thought that those four young kids live on forever inside each and every one of us, but they don't. They're dead."
Though the young victims were laid to rest less than a week ago, Fort Scott has already seen an exodus of more than a third of its former population of 7,941. Those uprooting their lives and fleeing their homes acknowledged the 154-year-old town has much to be proud of, but stressed that it would never be able to bounce back from the accident.
"When something this terrible happens, it's important to remember that it's all part of God's plan," hardware store owner Bill Stensland said as he boarded up the windows of his business. "And that plan is for all of us to leave Fort Scott for good and never speak to one another again."
"The sooner everyone realizes we won't ever be able to come to terms with this, the better," Stensland added.
Kansas governor Mark Parkinson has reportedly not offered his condolences to Fort Scott, calling the community's actions in the aftermath of the tragedy "a testament to the completely domitable nature of the human spirit."