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Sunday, 25 August, 2002, 01:50 GMT 02:50 UK
'We'll never forget our lovely girls'
The head of the school attended by Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman has written an open letter explaining how their community is moving on but will never forget the two murdered schoolgirls.
The full text of the letter is as follows:
Nobody could have imagined the horrors that the people of Soham have faced over the past three weeks.
We really have been through a rollercoaster of emotions during this time.
In the early stages, we were all full of optimism that the girls would be found alive, but it became clear last weekend that this was not going to be the case.
Every piece of bad news was greeted with disbelief and horror.
As we each tried to come to terms with the terrible news that has been emerging in the last few days, our thoughts have always been with Holly and Jessica's parents, and the extraordinary way they are coping.
'Love and support'
I hope it is of some comfort to them to know that they have the love and support not only of everyone at St Andrew's, but also the whole of Soham and much, much further afield.
I have been personally touched by the astonishing number of tributes that have poured in through condolence books and websites, and I am sure Holly and Jessica's families will find strength from the tidal wave of emotion that is coming in from all over the world.
Soham is a very tight-knit community and everyone feels an enormous sense of loss.
It is very difficult to find the words to express what we are all feeling, but somehow people manage to convey the most heartfelt messages in a very simple way.
The police have worked tirelessly throughout this whole investigation and my admiration for them is boundless.
The media have also played an important role in these tragic events, and we are all grateful for their help and support in the early days of the police investigation.
Many of the media I have spoken to have shared our sense of loss as well.
Many of them have children and acknowledge that while they have a job to do, they too have been affected in their own way by what is a terrible personal tragedy for Holly and Jessica's parents.
Although Soham will never forget the events of the last three weeks, we must now all pull together and start rebuilding our lives and the lives of those around us.
That is the sort of community Soham is - a strong, robust, resilient community who share in each other's happiness and support each other in times of distress.
This was never more evident than in the early stages of the police investigation, when hundreds of people gave up their time, and even took time off work, to search for the girls. That in itself showed what the people of Soham are made of.
No one could have failed to be moved by the poignant and emotional pleas from Holly and Jessica's friends in the first week of the search.
I was touched by the consideration shown by the reporters who sat and chatted to the pupils in the school and by the bravery shown by the children themselves, who clearly wanted their friends back home safe and well.
Although the town will never forget what happened in August 2002, it will recover.
Life will slowly return to normal and other topics of conversation will dominate the streets and shops as people go about their daily business.
But nobody will ever forget Holly and Jessica and there will always be a special place in our hearts for them.
There will be a thoughtful, reflective atmosphere in the school, but also a sense of moving on, of looking forward to the future and the challenges ahead.
This is exactly what Holly and Jessica were doing themselves last term, and what I know they would be doing it again if they were returning to school in September.
This will be an extremely difficult time for everyone connected with the school and trained counsellors will be on hand to offer any help which is required.
The staff here are also upset, and will have a vital role in the early weeks of the new school year helping pupils come to terms with what has happened and help them through any grief and anger they may be feeling.
The school is strong and as a Church of England school, it has a strong faith. We are confident that this will help us through the difficult times ahead.
The memories of Holly and Jessica will never fade in the minds of the school community, but we will be making sure they are remembered in an appropriate way.
I have spent time in school recently starting to make preparations for the new school year, and am constantly reminded of what a happy place it is.
The staff, pupils and their families are what make it such a vibrant, happy, place and Holly and Jessica were typical of the sort of pupils we have here at St Andrew's.
It is our role at St Andrew's to make sure this is how they are remembered, and to celebrate their lives and achievements in a suitable way.
With the continued help and support of this wonderful community of ours, I am confident we can achieve this.
24 Aug 02 | England
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