Lara Beer waited at the railway station, looking forward to seeing her best friend, who had been on a week-long exchange trip to Spain.
The 14-year-old said the train arrived as planned yesterday afternoon, but her friend Paula was not on it.
"I just went back home," Lara told the Associated Press today, wiping tears from beneath her red-framed glasses. "Then my parents told me Paula was dead."
Lara's friend was one of 16 students and two teachers from the main high school in the western German town of Haltern who were killed when the Germanwings flight from Barcelona to Duesseldorf crashed in the French Alps.
A total of 67 Germans, many Spaniards, as well as people from Australia, Japan, Israel, Turkey, Denmark and the Netherlands are believed to be among the 150 who died.
The crash has hit Haltern hard. In the rural town amid fields about 50 miles (80km) north-east of Duesseldorf, it seems everyone knew someone who died on board the Airbus A320.
"We are a town of 38,000," Mayor Bodo Klimpel said on ARD television, adding that his son attends the same school as the students who died. "It's only natural that you know some people personally."
Classes were cancelled today but students were encouraged to attend the Joseph Koenig High School anyway, to be with classmates and talk with psychologists and other counsellors.
Police erected a line outside the building to keep dozens of reporters and cameras away from the children as they hugged and wept at a makeshift memorial of candles and flowers at the entrance to the building.
"We're here to help on a difficult day so that the people here in Haltern have the chance to mourn," police spokeswoman Inge Such said.
A hand-painted sign propped up on an outdoor ping-pong table read in white letters: "Yesterday we were many; today we are alone", with 16 white crosses painted underneath the message.
Lara was one of a group who came from a neighbouring school to be with the Joseph Koenig students to try to come to terms with what happened.
"We're all talking with each other; the atmosphere is indescribable," she said. "You just can't believe that your own friend is gone."
Joseph Koenig High School's principal, Ulrich Wessel, said: "Nothing will be the way it was at our school any more."
Mr Wessel said that when the first call came about the crash, he hoped that the students had missed the plane.
But the regional governor informed local officials that they were on the passenger list.
Mr Wessel said one of the teachers who was on the plane had been married for less than six months.
He said: "It is a tragedy that makes one speechless, and we will have to learn to deal with it."
Mr Wessel added: "I was asked yesterday how many students there are at the high school in Haltern, and I said '1,283' without thinking - then had to say afterward, unfortunately, '16 fewer, since yesterday'. And I find that so terrible."
French investigators are hoping cockpit recordings from the "black box" retrieved from the crashed Germanwings passenger jet will unlock the mystery of what caused the plane to drop unexpectedly before smashing into an Alpine mountain, killing all 150 on board.