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What should have been a day for Gunn High School seniors to sign yearbooks and recall happy memories from the past four years became a day for sharing of a different sort Wednesday -- exchanging memories of classmate Sonya Raymakers, who died Tuesday night when she was struck by a train at West Meadow Drive.
The areas of campus where seniors hang out were hushed Wednesday as peers held each other through tears and sobs, the reality of what happened settling upon them. Some students sat alone with tears streaming down their faces. Others cried silently in the arms of friends. A woman played a sad, slow song on the cello as students gathered on the quad during their morning break.
Raymakers, 17, was in her final week at Gunn High School and was scheduled to graduate on June 10. She had been accepted into the theater program at New York University for the fall.
"She was avid in the theater department," said Monica Datta, 17, a friend and classmate of Raymakers. "She was in stage tech. She was really good at hair and make-up and costumes."
Raymakers was involved in probably every show put on at Gunn since her freshman year, Datta said.
Raymakers said she wanted to become a professional theatrical costume designer, according to an article in "The Oracle," Gunn's newspaper. She excelled in sewing.
"She's one of the most artistic people I know," Datta said. "She designed her own prom dress."
Raymakers began designing clothing during her freshman year.
"It's fun to see what image you can create from a particular outfit, and when you're behind every stitch, you know it's all you," Raymakers said in "The Oracle" article.
She was well-known around campus for her creativity.
"She had unique style," said senior Erica Barnes, 18, who sat in the amphitheater quietly talking with three other friends. "She never tried to be anyone else."
"She was really helpful," said Nisha Balaraman, 17. "I know she helped a lot of people out."
Balaraman did not know Raymakers very well, but recalled her volunteering to speak to the Fashion Design Club about sewing.
Raymakers was also involved in Gunn High School's Gay Straight Alliance and the Youth & Government program at the YMCA. She had been a participant at the Y since middle school.
"She wrote some of the best bills we'd ever seen," Datta, also a Y&G member, said. "She was always helping everybody out with their different assignments for Y&G."
Datta said Raymakers was "an amazing writer and speaker, too."
Raymakers won first place in the Palo Alto Weekly's annual short-story contest when she was a sixth-grader at JLS Middle School.
Ahmad Fayad, 18, a fellow theater participant and Y&G member, sat with Datta on the edge of the amphitheater outside of Gunn's Little Theater as they reminisced about their friend.
"She can keep a straight face during laughing games," Fayad said with a faint smile as he remembered the moment. "Once I made her laugh, though!"
As Fayad and Datta talked about the talents and successes of Raymakers, a friend joined them. Fayad turned to put his arms around her.
"Everything she did was impressive," Fayad said.
He was in disbelief that he and his peers are dealing with the suicide of another schoolmate.
"Especially because we just dealt with this less than a month ago," Fayad said, referring to "JP" Blanchard, a 17-year-old Gunn student who died in an apparent suicide at the same train intersection as Raymakers on May 5.