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Move bus stops off busy Pinellas roads, protesters demand

PINELLAS PARK — Horns blared Sunday afternoon as drivers passed teens waving signs that said "Honk for Change" and "RIP We (heart) U Nora."

About 35 of Nora Hernandez-Huapilla's classmates gathered at the spot where she was killed Friday while running to catch her school bus.

Several said they hope the tragedy will persuade the Pinellas County School District to do away with bus stops on busy streets.

"We've done our share of crying," said Noora Kahill, 16. "We've got to make some awareness and make some changes. No one needs to be walking out in six lanes of traffic at 6 a.m."

Nora Hernandez-Huapilla, a 17-year-old Pinellas Park High junior, was struck by a car at 6:25 a.m. Friday after darting into traffic on 66th Street at 70th Avenue N.

Her bus was waiting at the Cash America Pawn shop.

About two months ago, Nora's family complained to the school district about the bus driver, saying she had left kids behind and wouldn't wait for them to cross the street.

Sunday, Nora's 16-year-old brother, Juan Hernandez-Huapilla, said his sister worried that someday someone would get hurt there, he said.

He said he wants stops to be "like they used to be, closer to someone's home."

Another schoolmate, Danielle Kenneally, 16, who organized the protest, said she plans to initiate a petition to get rid of bus stops on major thoroughfares.

After reverting to neighborhood schools, the school district allowed high school students to remain in their schools if they found their own transportation or used stops like this one on major roads.

Nora's friend Heather Dillman, who rode the same bus, said visibility was bad at this stop.

"Nobody barely could see us because it was always dark in the morning," said Heather, 17. She said she didn't have to cross the street herself because her dad dropped her off and waited with her until her friends showed up.

Nora's classmates gathered along 66th Street about 1 p.m. Sunday. Many stayed three or four hours. Several adults came out, too.

About 3 p.m., Trista Torres arrived. She hugged Juan and his siblings and told them, "I'm sorry."

"I feel so bad because I have a kid, too," said Torres, 41, of St. Petersburg, who has a daughter in high school.

Juan said he was "happy that so many people care about (Nora)."

The family has not provided details about funeral or service arrangements. Her classmates started a memorial page for her on Facebook, which mentions a get-together Tuesday at the family home. Early Sunday evening, Nora's memorial page had more than 170 fans.

Move bus stops off busy Pinellas roads, protesters demand 12/20/09 [Last modified: Sunday, December 20, 2009 11:48pm]
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