Memories grow at Storch memorial

by Ashley Attanucci
Staff Writer
Video by Drake McWhorter

After losing one of their most beloved students, Coppell Middle School East has built an on-campus memorial site for eighth grader Taylor Storch. An oak tree, known as Taylor’s Tree, was planted in the center of a student-designed garden to make permanent Storch’s presence at the school. Both for the students and teachers that knew her, and for her family –Mr. Todd Storch, Mrs. Tara Storch, Ryan, 11, and Peyton, 9-  the site dedicated to Storch’s memory is a comfort and daily reminder of her spirit.

“When all this happened, when Taylor passed away, Tara and I knew that the school is really important to her -it’s important to us, we love the school- and so we wanted to have some kind of permanent place for Taylor here, which is what the tree stood for,” father Todd Storch said.

On the south side of the middle school on the corner of Falcon Lane and Mockingbird Lane exists the garden and the live oak tree planted in Taylor’s name, visible from the street and welcome for all to enjoy.

“We decided that planting a tree in the very center of the garden would be a great way to commemorate Taylor and to have something there for the students for years to come to memorialize her and make us remember her,” CMSE Principal Laura Springer said.

The garden project began in early April and was estimated to cost thousands of dollars, so the eighth grade class immediately began fundraising through accepting donations from students and their families selling bracelets and T-shirts that students and teachers wear every day. But with the generous help and donations from local businesses, CMSE paid only about $600 for the creation of the garden, and the project was completed in time for the dedication ceremony on Taylor’s fourteenth birthday, April 19.

“What started with just a small idea grew and expanded because of God’s love and ultimately [the help of] the city,” Storch said. “It’s a nice place to come and reflect [and] it gives us a little peace. It’s a really nice tribute.”

Now, the garden includes seating, a water fountain, her tree and a plaque. It is a site enjoyed daily by not only Taylor’s closest friends but by the entire school and surrounding community, during school and after.

“It’s kind of reached out to the whole neighborhood,” Springer said. “It’s a place to come where you can sit and reflect and just feel such a peace. It’s really a reverent, neat place to go and just relax for a minute.”

The garden is utilized for everything from class reading time during school to Bible studies on the weekends. Those closest to Taylor like the garden for its calming aura where they can pray and feel connected to Storch.

“Even though she’s not here right now, we all know that she’s with us spiritually,” childhood friend Caroline Carter said. “The garden helps us reconnect with her more and know that she’s always here with us.”

However, Taylor’s legacy lives on not just through the memorial at her school but through the several lives she saved by donating her organs. Her father has created a foundation called Taylor’s Gift to help spread awareness. Storch resigned from his job to advocate organ donation full-time, a “leap of faith” he calls it. A banner on the edge of the garden faces the street to remind passerby’s of the lives Taylor impacted and the difference they too can make.

“[The tree] means a lot of things,” Storch said. “Sometimes it’s just peaceful to see. I know it’s growing, it’s alive. I think about the tree and my other two kids; I think about the size it’ll be when Ryan’s here and when my youngest daughter Peyton’s here. It’s a healthy and good reminder of what you can do while you’re here, that when people come together, great things can happen. Especially in tragic events, there’s good things that can come out of it.”