Nationals gathered for a candlelight vigil in Smokey Park, Richmond Hill Queens on the evening of May 24, two days after 19 children perished in a fire that engulfed their heavily grilled dormitory in the town of Madhia Region 8, Guyana.
A minute’s silence was observed next to the Tree of Life, a symbol to Guyanese at home and abroad, lost the COVID 19, and where flags, flowers, and toys were placed in loving memory of the eighteen girls and one boy.
Ecumenical elders prayed for the bereaved. Rhonda Rogers of United States New York Chaplin Task Forces, said, “It’s with a heavy heart in little Guyana we pray for the families, the departed and those in hospital. We come together united, to pray in love and unity.
Hindu Pandit Ram Hardowar said, “the Federation of Hindu Mandir, brothers, and sisters, as we reflect and pray for 19 young innocence lost, and those suffering, emotional trauma, in town of Mahdia, we seek comfort for healing.”
“It is uncanny, the parallel with Uvalde Texas, one year after 19 loving children were killed. We mourn with the families who are still trying to find answers,” he said,
Muslim Imam Safraz Bacchus, rendered prayers for the deceased, and families, in the homeland “as they cope with the tragedy.”
“We share compassion, and sympathy. When a child suffers our hearts aches. Our faith plays a role in our togetherness, as we support each other. The children are robbed of their future. It will be a long and difficult road ahead for the surviving children. We must pray for them, he said.
As tears trickled from heaven over the solemn gathering Haley Simeon’s poem “The Saddest Word Goodbye” honored the children – saying you are the rosebuds God has picked before it can grow old, it will make the heavens more beautiful, soothing words, followed by Song for Guyana’s Children, rendered by Jevanah La Rose.
The powerful verses of poet James Richmond, “Killed in Mahdia” encapsulated the grief. “Sad are the times Mother Guyana; Sad are the happenings deep down in Mahdia. How can a parent cope with a child loss so tragically – suddenly taken away.
“How can a mother look down into her soul of love to face another sad – sad day.”
Consul General to New York Michael E. Brotherson recognized the painful time Guyanese are experiencing, after the tragic loss of the nineteen children. He acknowledges that Guyana is a country of caring people, and applauded the government’s response to the tragedy, and commended President Irfaan Ali, whom he said is a caring president. “We can boast that we have leaders who care, as was exemplified by our president.”
He thanked members of the diaspora for the “outpouring of love and affection, a character we as Guyanese display, noting that times of tragedy brings out the best in us as seen on display.”
Grieving the loss of the children whom he said could possibly have gone on to be leaders, doctors, and university professors “adding to our nation’s pool of resources, CG Brotherson assured “we can be comforted in the adage that God knows best.”
“I have come together with my colleague Ambassador Rodrigues-Birkett to keep nationals informed, as observances evolve. We have been in constant contact with our capital to share and receive information. “We are mindful of your support.”
“Let us not only see the downside of the tragedy but use this as an opportunity for us to come closer together as a nation.”
Referencing President Ali’s One Guyana Mission”, he called on expatriates to look at the tragedy as an impetus to support each other more. Where there is life there is death, and as we mourn the loss of our young angels, we must recommit to being each other’s keeper. Show our oneness,” said the diplomat.
Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, spoke emotionally of how Guyana and the diaspora awoke to the news of the gruesome way the children died in their dormitory where parents had hopes, aspirations and dreams for them.
“It is a day we will never forget in the normal course of life. No parent expects that their child will leave this world before them let alone die in such a horrific way. The secondhand pain we feel here will never compare to that experienced by the parents of those beautiful children, she said.
“I’m aware of the sacrifices made by the parents of these children so that they can be educated at the secondary school. They were all hoping for a better future, better perhaps than their parents who may not have had the opportunity to attend a secondary school.
“Words have never been enough to eliminate grief. How does one stop grieving for a child or a loved one especially one that is cut down so young in life. How does a nation fathom the loss of 19 of its future leaders in such tragic circumstances, questioned Ambassador Rodrigues-Birkett.
“Fellow Guyanese it is in times of tragedy that the best of humanity is demonstrated, and I am pleased that you are here this evening. I see the grannies and the mommies out here standing on the street this is part of who we are as a people. We have seen how our government led by His Excellency President Irfaan Ali wasted no time in traveling to Mahdia.
“I am pleased that you have taken this time to be here in solidarity with the families and our countrymen and women back home. On your behalf and on my own and that of the permanent mission of Guyana let me express our deepest condolences to the families, relative, friends, and loved ones of the 19 children and the community of Mahdia, said the diplomat who read the names of the children.
“We stand in solidarity, reverence, sorrow, and support with Guyana over the unfathomable loss of 19 lives due to fire at Mahdia,” said Albert Baldeo, District Leader.
They are Bibi Rita Fiona Jefferey, Sabrina John, Loreen Evans, Belnisa Evans, twins —Mary & Martha Dandrade, Omefia Edwin, Eulanda Carter, Natalie Bellarmine, Andrea Roberts, Lorita Williams, Nickleen Robinson, Sherlyn Bellarmine, Lisa Roberts, Cleoma Simon, Tracil Thomas, Adonijah Jerome, Delecia Edwards, and Adrianna Edwards.
Thanks to community activist, Ossie Rogers, Coleen Chattergoon, Romola Persaud, Rohan Narine, and others who organized the vigil.
Ken Rampersaud served as emcee.