PORT OF SPAIN – One of the survivors of the deadly attack that claimed the life of schoolboy Joshua Andrews, 15, was inconsolable at Andrews’ funeral yesterday.
The funeral service was held at Transport and Industrial Workers Union, Eastern Main Road, Laventille a week after his murder which triggered outrage from politicians and a renewed sense of co-operation to pass legislation to curb gang-related crime.
Sitting amongst relatives and close friends, the boy, one of Andrews’ close friends, was seen burying his head in his hands, as he wept uncontrollably.
The boy, Andrews and three other students, were on their way home from the Morvant/Laventille Secondary School on January 8, when gunmen opened fire on the “PH” taxi they were travelling in on the first day of the new school term.
The driver, Devon Fernandez and Andrews were both shot dead. The car exploded and the bodies of the two victims were burnt. None of the survivors have been back to school since the incident.
“These boys will have to live with this for the rest of their lives . . . it will haunt them,” a relative of one of the survivors’ said.
There was some disquiet when the school’s acting principal Emileen Hassanali announced the names of the survivors. An aunt of one of the schoolboys said Hassanali’s decision was highly “irresponsible and insensitive”.
“These boys are still alive and their identities should have been protected because we don’t want the gunmen to come for them now and kill them. What the principal get by calling out the names?” the aunt asked.
An officer assigned to the Inter-Agency Task Force, who was at the funeral, also agreed that the names of the boys should not have been announced.
“These same boys can be witnesses, if any arrests are made and if it reaches before the court. But, maybe, they just want to drive home what they are going through. They don’t know better.”
Hassanali not only disclosed the names of the students who survived but also gave an update on each one of them. One, she said, was undergoing surgery as she spoke, while another, asked his mother to be transferred to another school where “he would not hear any gunshots”.
“These children are very traumatized and very scared to come to school. Even parents are calling to find out if it is safe . . . this is the reality that we are faced with,” Hassanali said.
Hours before Andrews’ sealed coffin was brought to TIWU, Andrews’ mother, Carlene Andrews and his two brothers Matthew and Marcus King, were escorted by prison
officers to the Simpson’s Funeral Home, Eastern Main Road, Laventille for a private viewing of the body. This was confirmed to the T&T Guardian by prison commissioner Gerard Wilson.
Carlene and Matthew are both incarcerated for murder, while Marcus is in prison charged with robbery. During the eulogy, Andrews’ aunt, Leandra Clarke read a poem on behalf of Carlene.
The poem was about her son being embedded in her memory and her heart forever, meaning that he will never be forgotten.
Clarke, in an emotional speech, described Andrews as one who will always encourage his friends “not to give up on their dreams”.
Bishop Hasratt Ali, of Rescue Mission Evangel Temple, Barataria, sought to give a reason for the spiralling crime and violence.
“It is because people no longer live in the presence of God and that is what they need to do . . . if they live in the presence of God there would be no crime and there would be no corruption because people will be God-conscious.”
Among the mourners were minister of education, Anthony Garcia, Laventille West MP Fitzgerald Hinds, opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, opposition chief whip David Lee, opposition senator Wade Mark, attorney Gerald Ramdeen and former Housing Development Corporation’s managing director Jearlean John.