There was no hesitation.

When alumni and parents of Carleton College students had the idea this week to put a white carnation in each of the 1,900 student mailboxes on campus to show their support in a time of mourning, a plan was quickly put into action.

The mood on campus is still somber following the deaths of three Carleton students in an accident last Friday on Hwy. 3 just north of Northfield, which prompted the outpouring of support.

James P. Adams, 20, of St. Paul; Paxton M. Harvieux, 21, of Stillwater; and Michael D. Goodgame, of Westport, Conn., were killed in the two-vehicle collision, while William S. Sparks, 20, of Evanston, Ill., and Conor J. Eckert, 19, of Seattle, Wash., were injured.

Sarah Forster, director of Alumni Relations and also an alum of the college, said the idea to fill every student mailbox stems from a Carleton tradition called “Friday Flowers,” where flowers are available for students, faculty and staff each Friday.

She said that this Friday, the tradition was taken to a whole new level.

“This was a wonderful collection of parents, alumni and folks in the Northfield community,” Forster said. “Friday Flowers has been a long-standing Carleton tradition and this was a community effort. It’s really a gesture that resonates with everyone here.”

Along with help from folks in the Northfield community, volunteers from the Carleton campus cut, assembled, wrapped and placed the flowers in the mailboxes on Thursday and into Friday morning.

The gesture didn’t go unnoticed as many alumni commented on the Carleton College Facebook page, including this one from the college: “Truly the campus feels embraced by all of you today. Thank you.”

Others included:

− “Very powerful — and very Carleton!”

− “The people of Carleton − past, present, and future − make it such a beautiful, special place.”

− “Even though its been 2 years since I left Carleton, I am still so inspired and amazed by this community. It truly is one of the most special places on the planet.”

− “Those of us who are far away are grateful to have you take care of our kids during this difficult time. Thanks to all the parents, Carleton community members, and Northfield residents who worked on the beautiful flowers.”

− “This breaks my heart but it also makes me absurdly happy. I love Carleton.”

− “Thank you. Even with a broken heart, Carleton’s kind spirit shines.”

Forster says that the Facebook messages just reinforce the closeness of the tight-knit Carleton community.

“Those are healing tears,” she said. “It says a lot about Carleton. We truly are a family.”

Forster said earlier in the day that a similar effort by the St. Olaf College community was being organized.

By 5:30 p.m. on Friday, those flowers − complete with a personal message included with each one − were delivered to the Carleton campus.

A Facebook post summed up that effort: “Individual Olaf students bought each of those flowers and proceeded to write notes. A day to feel good about the whole town!”

Reach Managing Editor Jerry Smith at 645-1136, or follow him on Twitter.com @NewsNorthfield