Opposition Leader Godwin Friday has told the relatives who lost loved ones in the bus crash on Sept. 11 that the tragedy highlights the importance of family.
“We cannot feel the pain the way that the close relatives and friends do or grieve as you would. But we feel it nonetheless. The presence of so many mourners and supporters here today testifies to that,” he told the joint funeral service in Clare Valley on Sunday.
“So, please, know, family members, that you’re not alone. We are with you in this time of grieving. Through it all, you have shown amazing grace and courage; remarkable courage.”
Friday asked that God continue to bless and give the families strength and faith to continue to cope long after the funeral activities and “you are left only with your thoughts and your memories and fellow family members to support you”.
He pointed out that during the funeral service a choir sang “Lean on me when you are not strong”. The opposition leader, however, said that sometimes it will not be enough.
“As my colleague Nature (MP for South Leeward, Nigel “Nature” Stephenson) said, in those times and as the hymn also says, you take it to the Lord in prayer. We don’t suffer needlessly, when we know that he’s there.”
Giovanni Enrique “Durh” Barker, 21; Khalil Karl Travis Robin aka “Keno” and “Snackman”, 29; Kenroy Kevin “Pressure” Haywood, 29; Elvis Logie “Billy” Harold, 30; and, Ishmael Dorrel Bruce aka Darrel, 39, all residents of Clare Valley, died when the minibus in which they were travelling to a funeral in Owia, crashed in Sandy Bay on Sept. 11.
Friday said that the tragedy is “a community event, a community matter, and it’s a national matter”.
He said that after the incident, he repeatedly heard from residents of the village, including the families of the deceased, that the community is as much a family as a village.
“Many people here are related to one another, as family. This is a close-knit community that shares happy times with one another and that comes together even more readily in times of loss and sorrow, such as this.
“I acknowledge and salute you for your strength, and your courage and your faith in God. Continue to support one another, especially in times like this. We hope and pray you never have to go through such an incident or that nowhere in this country, do we have to go through this again.”
The Sept. 11 accident is the worst in St. Vincent and the Grenadines since Jan. 12, 2015, when seven students died when the minivan in which they were travelling to school from Fancy crashed at Rock Gutter.
Friday noted that he is the father of two young men.
“When they are little and they’re at home in your sight, you feel that they’re safe but as they get older, you think they’re more responsible, but as a parent you always feel that you know best.
“And so, when things like this happen, it touches us all. Because we know but for the grace of God it could be any of us.
“So, parents, when you have the chance, hug your children. And children, appreciate your parents. You may not always have them there.”
He said that sometimes relatives or friends “have different slights … and you think that they’re the most important thing in the world, and then somebody gets sick and you realise it wasn’t so important after all.
“Family is the most important thing to you after God; stay close to them. This sudden and tragic event moves us all to reflect on our own lives and how fragile it is and to acknowledge how fortunate we are that we can still enjoy it.”
He said he has spoken to other young men from Clare Valley who could have been on the minibus, but chose not to attend the funeral in Owia, “a seemingly casual decision that may have saved their lives.
“We are reminded in such times when we hear such accounts, that the next day or even the next minute is not promised to us. We partake of and enjoy them only by the grace of God.”
He said that while this is too easily forgotten, “we ought to know this and to keep it always in mind.
“For when we do it, we fully appreciate and understand this … We will be moved to be kinder to one another to be more humble about our own good fortune. And you will want to try to make our lives a benefit not just for ourselves but for others around us and for humanity in general. Every life, no matter how short, has a purpose. This can be the legacy of these five young men of Clare Valley.”
Friday said that losing a loved one is always painful.
“When it happens suddenly and involves young people, the pain and the feeling of loss is magnified. For we think about the many years that you might have had had they lived a normal lifespan and what they would have done with that time,” the opposition leader said.
“I hope and pray that the support and the caring of those of us in the wider community who know of and share your loss have brought and will continue to bring some measure of comfort and peace.”