by Latoya Burnham
Three years to the day that six young women lost their lives in a robbery and arson attack on a store, and today tears of their relatives and loved ones still flowed as they did back then.
Eyes that were not hidden behind shade or glasses held traces of gloom as a short commemorative service was held for Pearl Cornelius, Shanna Griffith, Kellisha Olliviere, Tiffany Harding, Nikita Belgrave and Kelly-Ann Welch in Heroes Square, the City.
Relatives and supporters dressed in shirts bearing the images of the girls or carried large photos on placards and pamphlets as the September 3rd Foundation remembered the six and others who had fallen victim to violence this year.
From just before 11:30 a.m., a small crowd began to gather in the square, as speakers blasted songs by Richard Stoute and repeated How Many More by John King. Relatives, recognising each other in their shared memories and grief, embraced openly and asked after each other’s families before the ceremony got going, addressed by Chairman of the Foundation, David Comissiong.
Comissiong reminded those present that the observance was not simply for the six girls but to spur action in the island toward eliminating all forms of violence, especially that against women.
He said what made the September 3rd incident “horrific and tragic” was the fact that it was committed by “two young sons of our nation”. If the deaths of the six did not get the nation to wake up and focus on the issue of violence, Comissiong declared that nothing would.
Welch’s mother, Glendine, read out the names of the girls and Doriel Skinner, a member of the SAVE Foundation and close member to the Griffith family, followed with the names of those who had passed away in violent incidents this year.
As the hands on the clock on the West Wing of Parliament inched closer to noon, the national time of the observance of the day, Wayne Onkphra Wells stepped up to say a prayer for the families and the country. It was when the clock started to chime the noon hour, that tears started to roll down the cheeks of those present.
Tissues rose to capture rolling tears as family members held back their sorrow at the untimely deaths of their loved ones, as a member of the National Organisation of Women offered flowers and another bystander, a placard declaring, “What we need is love”.
Once the minute and then the prayers were completed, nine-year-old Mico Johnson and contestants of the Richard Stoute Teen Talent Competition launched into a touching rendition of Stoute’s original song called Stop The Abuse.
“A woman gives love and she needs it too; So if you beat on a woman, that’s not the right thing to do”, the group sang as more tears flowed, but some smiles of gratitude also peaked through and cheers were offered at the end of the tribute. [email protected]