The tears and the hugs were all too familiar.
Four weekends ago, a crash in Vienna claimed the life of a 16-year-old Vienna youth. Two weeks after that, five teenagers were killed and four others injured in three car accidents in Montgomery County.
And yesterday, teenagers gathered at another impromptu shrine of flowers, candles and stuffed animals created after an accident that killed three young men: one a student at Forest Park High School in Woodbridge, another a graduate of the high school and the third a man who lived in Manassas Park. Police have said speed was a factor in the accident, which occurred about 3:50 a.m. Sunday.
Classmates of the driver, Weston Griggs, 17, and Forest Park graduate Vernon Williams Jr., 18, hugged each other in the halls and sought out guidance counselors to talk about the loss, Forest Park High School Principal Bill Brown said.
Brown hoped that the pain would become a lesson for the young drivers in the school.
"Today, if you talk to our children, they know that they shouldn't drive recklessly," Brown said. "Will it impact them, that they won't drive too recklessly or too fast in the future? I'd like to be naive and think that."
Prince William County schools, in partnership with the Department of Motor Vehicles, is leading a statewide effort to curb crashes among young drivers, said coordinator Jon Bachman. Television ads, billboards and parent and teacher education are part of the effort against what he called "a health crisis."
Police said Griggs, called Wes by his friends, was headed west on Cardinal Drive in Woodbridge with Williams and Marshall Rawlings, 22, when he lost control of his 2000 Volkswagen Jetta and careened into a electrical pole and down an embankment.
All three were thrown from the vehicle.
Fred Anderson, who lives across from the accident site, was among the first there. The impact sounded like an explosion, he said, and when he arrived at the scene, "I knew that they were gone."
Yesterday, uprooted shrubs and a broken stub of electrical pole bore witness to the force of the impact. Several students went down the embankment, picking up pieces of windshield glinting in the grass.
Griggs, a senior, was known for his skills as a drummer, his friends said. He had been a member of the marching band until switching this year to the jazz band.
"He was the most awesome drummer I've ever heard in my life," said Carolyn Erhart, 15, a sophomore in the marching band.
Christi Shields, a 17-year-old senior in the band, said Griggs was one of the first people she met when she moved to the county four years ago.
"He could talk to you like you were the most important person," she said.
Williams, a talented singer, was in several performing groups at school and was majoring in music at Northern Virginia Community College, his family said.
News of the deaths stunned the band students, who were on a trip over the weekend and returned to school Sunday. When they arrived, Brown said, he took them into the auditorium to tell what had happened.
"I didn't want students in a traumatic state without support," he said.
Griggs's family declined to speak to a reporter yesterday, and Rawlings's mother, Mary Frazier, did not return a telephone message.
Jane Farr-Williams and Vernon Williams Sr., Vernon's parents, welcomed a steady stream of visitors to their Dumfries home.
Farr-Williams said her son, who graduated in June, was at a party Sunday and apparently left to go somewhere else with friends. She did not know Griggs or Marshall.
"We were just blessed, blessed, blessed to have him in our lives," she said.
"As a family, we knew we loved him, but I didn't really realize how loved he was until all his friends came by."