Residents say good-bye with flags, fireworks and impromptu parade as students return home because of coronavirus

Taft said good-bye last week to three foreign exchange students studying at Taft High.

The students, all seniors were forced to return to their homes by the coronavirus.

Elema Martelli and Rocco Pellegrini left for home in Italy, the country hardest hid by the outbreak on Saturday, and the third, Bjarne Schwarze,  returned to his native Germany on March 25, said Dawn Cole.

Before they left, Martelli and Pellegrini were treated to an impromptu farewell parade through the neighborhood surrounding Terrace Drive Friday night.

Families stood in their yards with flags and fireworks, waving good-by to the students as they rode up the street.

Martelli stood up and waved through the sunroof of a car as she passed.
The students then stopped for a more personal good-bye to their friends in Taft.
"It was bittersweet," said Cole.

Saturday morning, Martelli and Pellegrini left from Los Angeles International Airport and were seen off by their host families and some friends.

Cole said Martelli's mother is a nurse "working in the front lines as a hero" in the battle against the disease in Sammiato, Italy. Martelli was staying with Barnachia family and Pellegrini and Schwarze were staying with Kenny Neher, the exchange coordinator in Taft.