In so many ways the last few days in Wayland have looked like typical early July days for the town of 13,000.
Men batted and fielded on the baseball diamond at as boys played an energetic game of soccer nearby. “Regulars” stopped in to , chatted with employees and then took up residence at their favorite table. People pumped gas, drank coffee and went to work. Along the way, they also talked.
They talked about the tragic death of Lauren Astley, a recent graduate of , and they talked about the arrest of her ex-boyfriend, Nathaniel Fujita, another recent graduate, and how he had been charged with her murder.
Mostly they talked about how to make sense of something so senseless.
“While this unfathomable event shocks each of us who live in this quiet town, the heartache and pain experienced by family and friends of Lauren cannot be quantified," wrote Board of Selectmen Chair Tom Fay in a statement.
"There are simply no words."
A Community Reacts, Speaks Out
Dr. Paul Stein officially took the reins as superintendent of on Friday, July 1.
On Tuesday morning, he stood in front of microphones, televisions cameras and reporters and talked about the murder of a recent Wayland graduate.
"This is a horrific and chilling turn of events that will deeply touch everyone in this community," Stein said. "This shouldn't happen anywhere – anywhere or to anyone."
Stein admitted that his brief time in town made it impossible to know much about either Astley or Fujita, and said his concern now was ensuring students, friends of the two, received the support they need.
"This shakes people to the core," Stein said, adding that he was horrified by the circumstances, but "instantaneously impressed with how people in town have showed their love and compassion."
He also stressed the importance of remembering the Fujitas throughout this time, saying they, "are part of this community as well."
Support for students was available Tuesday at , where Wayland High School counselors and others were on hand to talk.
“I wanted to express my support, my concern and my sadness,” said Chief Robert Irving as he walked to the school’s parking lot after visiting the counseling sessions at Happy Hollow. “This is a place for them to get together and talk and hug each other. We will get through it.”
Irving said this is the first homicide he has encountered since becoming chief at the Wayland PD in 2001.
But the lack of violent crime in Wayland isn’t the only thing that makes this particular case so shocking to so many people: It’s the ages of the victim and the suspect and the apparent brutality of the crime.
“Hanging in there,” said WHS Principal Pat Tutwiler as he stepped away to meet with counselors helping his students who came to Happy Hollow.
“Hanging in there” seems to describe a number of people right now.
“I’m doing OK,” said Patty Vancil who brought her puppy, Otto, to Happy Hollow in the hopes of brightening someone’s day. She didn’t know there were therapy dogs already inside. Vancil said her daughter, Laura, was a year behind Astley in school, but was friends with her just the same.
“The girls are suffering,” Vancil said of her daughter and her friends. “It’s just very hard.”
Over at the local pizza hangout, , owners Kathy and Mike Giakoumakis know a lot of the high schoolers in town, many of whom stop by just to chat as much as to enjoy the pizza.
“The kids have been quiet,” Kathy Giakoumakis said. She added that the restaurant was closed over the holiday weekend, so she hadn’t seen many kids yet. The few she had seen, however, didn’t have much to say.
“Anytime something like this happens, it’s tragic,” Mike Giakoumakis said. “There are good kids in this town. I see them come and go. It’s a tragedy.”
A tragedy, as .
Facebook has exploded with thoughts and comments related to this case. At least a few people are speaking out in anger against the accused, but mostly people are expressing their love for Lauren and celebrating her life.
“LDA always a muse, we love you more than words can describe,” is written on the Facebook wall of the Wayland High School Muses, the a cappella group to which Astley belonged.
A Facebook group dedicated to Astley now has more than 800 members and is filled with comments and memories. A second memorial page has also been started.
That online group, along with the reactions and actions of so many throughout Wayland, serve as examples of the compassion Fay expressed in his statement.
“Let us struggle with this tragedy together, supporting and respecting those closest to Lauren, celebrating her abbreviated life, and appreciating how precious life really is."