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Lincoln-Sudbury grads look ahead, past tragedy

SUDBURY — The experiences of high school naturally bring teens together, but the events of one January day at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School forged a bond among students that made last night’s graduation more emotional than normal.

Seniors refer to the fatal stabbing of 15-year-old freshman James Alenson by its date, Jan. 19 — the day tragedy rocked their suburban campus. Five months later, amid the jubilation of graduation, angst lingered.

‘‘It’s impossible to look back on this year without a sense of sadness,’’ said graduate Daniel. ‘‘It definitely has been a difficult year by anyone’s standards.’’

The ceremony on the Lincoln-Sudbury baseball field had its light moments — including an impromptu duet by the school’s principal and a student — and heavier remembrances of the challenges the campus has faced.

Alenson died after he was attacked in a school bathroom before classes. A freshman at the school, John Odgren, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder. Local police and school officials have since discussed new security arrangements.

John M. Ritchie, superintendent and principal, tried to set a dual tone early on in yesterday’s ceremony, saying at the start, ‘‘It’s possible to have an incredibly difficult year and to have an incredibly wonderful graduation.’’

In emotional, unscripted 8remarks, Ritchie thanked the students for holding the campus together. ‘‘You have come through for us with such grace, bravery, courage, and kindness,’’ he said. ‘‘Nobody devolved into bitterness, anger, or blaming. The way you handled yourselves is a way adults should emulate.’’

Graduate Megan E. McPhee, a class speaker, called the senior class and the larger community ‘‘the most supportive network I have ever known.’’

The ceremony for more than 350 graduates included taped 8remarks from Governor Patrick.

John C. Drake can be reached at