On a snow-covered field next to the two-lane road where 16-year-old Alyssa Ettl died last week, more than 200 people, including Lake- ville classmates, friends and family members, huddled together Saturday to remember her.
They marked the spot with a tall cross wrapped in flowers and ribbons, and they prayed in silence on a sun-splashed day with below-zero temperatures. The memorial was less than a half-mile from Lakeville North High School — Ettl's destination three days earlier when her car slid sideways on the slushy road and was broadsided by an SUV headed in the opposite direction.
"Thank you for helping celebrate her life," her father, Matt Ettl, told the crowd, his voice choking up. "It's overwhelming for us. We wouldn't be able to do it without you."
Last week's snowfall contributed to hundreds of traffic accidents and at least five fatal car crashes, including Ettl's on Wednesday, on icy and snow-covered roads across the state.
On Saturday, Lakeville police blocked off part of Dodd Boulevard near 190th Street W. to allow five yellow school buses packed with classmates, fellow varsity soccer players, DECA teammates and friends to memorialize the high school junior known for her outgoing personality and positive outlook.
"She's an inspiration to so many young people," said Gunna Kilian, a family friend. "She always had a smile on her face."
At Lakeville North, counselor Lisa Holien said the crash has rocked the entire student body.
"It's clear she really affected many, many lives," she said, adding about the accident: "It could have happened to anybody. I think [students are] processing that, as well."
In 2004, a Lakeville senior died nearby in a drunken-driving accident off Dodd and 185th Street. The city is working to widen most of Dodd to four lanes, but the section where both students crashed remains two lanes as it winds down a hill to the high school.
"It's not the safest area," junior Caleb Bussler said, adding that another student crashed in the same area Friday but wasn't injured.
Bussler knew Ettl for years and said she was an involved student who was deeply religious — something that is now influencing her peers.
"She's really changed our outlook; people are trying to become more like her," he said. "It's been sad, but really cool that she really has united everyone in our school."
Ettl is survived by her parents, Matt and Jennifer, and sister, Korrine. Tuesday's funeral is at 11 a.m. at All Saints Catholic Church; buses will again take hundreds of Ettl's classmates to the service.