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The two dozen young people gathered near the muddy banks of the Rum River in Cambridge on Sunday made no effort to hide their affection and grief for the four young people who hours earlier had died in a horrific car crash.
Some squealed their tires. Others blared rap music. A few screamed, "We love you all!" and released balloons into the midafternoon haze. One young woman stared stoically through her car window and cried, refusing a friend's efforts to comfort her.
Then came the laughter and the stories. As dusk fell, a young woman imitated the way crash victim Travis (Trouble) Buchan, who had dreamed of being a rap star, belted out lyrics with his hands cupped over his mouth. A close friend of Tres Kendryna-Whitefeather cried as she recounted how he had given her a room to sleep in after she was kicked out of her mother's house.
Later, at a hastily arranged memorial service at Cambridge United Methodist Church, a sanctuary full of young people hollered, "Whoop! Whoop!" after a young man with shades pulled out a guitar and sang a song from Stain'd, yelling, "This one's for you, Trouble!"
But underneath the grief and the shock, there was anger. Anger that so many young people had crammed into a single car. Anger that the accident happened past curfew. And anger that parents and teachers in this city of 5,000 are perceived as talking about driver safety only after someone dies, or when prom night is just a week away.
At the People's Café on Main Street, one waitress and friend of a crash victim had to go home early because she was too distraught. Her coworker, Gretchen Simon, 20, a student at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, shook her head angrily as she wiped tables.
"It's a horrible, horrible tragedy that never should have happened," she said of the crash, which in addition to the teens killed two other people who have not been identified. "That was a flat road with no curves. It should be drummed into people's heads what these rules are and that they exist for a reason."
Friends said the four young victims, all of whom were students or former students at Cambridge High School, weren't part of the "in" crowd of athletes and top students. But they were popular in other ways -- for standing by their friends and not giving in to authority.
"They weren't jocks. They weren't preps. They were outsiders, and they lived life to the fullest," said Hailey Oslund, 17.
Callie Schaeppi, 23, recalled how Travis (Griz) Gryczkowski, 21, told an older boy to stop chastising her when she was going through a difficult time in high school. "That meant a lot to me," she said. "He was not only nice, he had courage."
They called Buchan "Trouble," but students said that was only because of his offbeat personality. "He was the opposite of trouble," said former classmate Makenzie Krekelberg.
Buchan played hacky sack like a ninja -- often catching it on the bill of his hat, friends said. He dreamed of being a rap star, spending hours scribbling lyrics into a notebook. Several of Buchan's old classmates talked of burying those lyrics with him.
"He wanted to be big, rich and famous," said former classmate Rachel Hansen. "His lyrics deserve to go with him."
At the service, stories multiplied. A young woman spoke of how crash victim Kelsee Blackledge helped her in math class.
Finally, the young people held their hands on each others' shoulders and listened to the pastor's prayer.
"God, it's too much to think that tomorrow will come and they won't be here," said the Rev. Dan Schneider-Bryan. "God, it's too much."
Chris Serres • 612-673-4308