‘How are we going to help?’ Holy Cross president describes aftermath of fatal crash

The president of Holy Cross described the “sad responsibility” of dealing with a student’s death after a fatal van crash last week, but said the families and students affected are coming together after the tragedy.

Holy Cross staff told Rev. Philip Boroughs on Wednesday that the women’s rowing team was in a car crash in Florida and sophomore Grace Rett did not survive.

“She was a very good student,” Boroughs recalled. “She was very committed to sport but she was also a tour guide, she sung in the choir, there were things she did as a whole human being that really touched the lives of people here.”

Boroughs said he was shocked and saddened, but quickly focused on Rett’s family.

“At that moment we went to, how are we going to get down there? How are we going to help? What do Grace’s family particularly need?” Boroughs recalled.

The college arranged for a plane to take the Rett family to their daughter, with Boroughs by their side listening to stories about Grace and praying with them.

“A certain amount of the flight was in silence actually. They’re still grappling with the reality of loss and they don’t know, nor did I frankly know what we’d see when we arrived,” Boroughs said. “It’s a sad responsibility to be present, but it’s also a privileged place because people appreciate that you are with them.”

In Florida, Boroughs visited with students Paige Cohen, Anne Comcowich, Maggie O’Leary, Bianca McIver, Meagan Moriarty, Hannah Strom and coach Patrick Diggins, who were all hurt and hospitalized in the crash. Boroughs said the students had already been in contact with their friends back home.

“When I went into the ICU for the students who were conscious and could engage me, many of them had already been online … texting each other to know how they were doing,” Boroughs said. “There’s a strong sense of community, ‘How was everyone else?'”

And even in their grief, the Retts were the same way, Boroughs said. Grace Rett’s father dropped the ceremonial first puck at a Holy Cross women’s hockey game this weekend, and Boroughs said they’re embracing their daughter through the community.

“In some ways they must feel they’re touching Grace by touching her friends and being present to them,” Boroughs said.

Rett’s wake will be held Tuesday and her funeral Wednesday, with the college holding a memorial service Friday. Boroughs said the crash is still under investigation, and the college is looking at new travel protocols for future trips.

“We’re just trying to make sure everything we do is as safe as possible,” Boroughs said. “You can take every precaution you know of and still, life happens.”

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