THROOP, Pa. -- More than 37 years after a devastating crash, a community pauses to remember eight young victims.
Students from Mid Valley High School in Lackawanna County are learning about the dangers of drunk driving this week during National Red Ribbon Week.
The Mid Valley community learned that lesson the hard way decades ago when eight teenagers were killed in a drunk driving crash.
On Thursday, students joined the community to remember the "Mid Valley Eight."
That crash happened a few months before Mid Valley High School on Underwood Road in Throop would officially open. Back on March 6, 1981, eight teens, including six Mid Valley students, were killed.
Mid Valley High School opened to students in September of 1981. Seven months earlier, the community suffered a wound that never went away.
Eight teenagers, including six Mid Valley students, were killed in a drunk driving crash on Underwood Road, not far from where the high school sits today in Throop.
"it just put a dark cloud over the entire area, and it really took a lot of time for people to heal," said Mid Valley teacher Michael Yakacki.
Yakacki lost his future brother-in-law in that crash -- 15-year-old Michael Cheresko.
For a long time, it was a topic not discussed in the community.
"March 6, 1981, I was five days short of being 2 years old, but I have to say the credit is given to my law teacher, Mr. Jerry Dempsey, who always made it a point around prom time and graduation to teach this lesson, and remind the students of the dangers that are out there, and to make good decisions," said Mid Valley teacher Nick Kazinetz.
Kazinetz now teaches his own students about the crash in hopes of preventing another tragedy.
Kazinetz was the catalyst in getting a more permanent memorial at the school. A plaque, first made back in 1983 but never displayed, is finally getting a place outside the student parking lot.
"From all the research, and personal conversations I've had with the families, these were all good kids, unfortunately, they just made one poor decision. We want them to be remembered for the good kids that they were and the good students they were at Mid Valley," Kazinetz said.
Family members say the memorial is better late than never putting names to the Mid Valley Eight.
"Even though it was a bad situation, they live on forever here in the Mid Valley family," Yakacki said.
Just a few moments ago, teachers and students from Mid Valley, as well as members of the victims' families, dedicated that plaque and unveiled it to the community.
Each of the families was contacted and gave the OK before the plaque went up. One of the victims' families donated the stone where the plaque is secured
It will be seen by Mid Valley students pulling out of the parking lot for many years to come.