St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): It was an emotional ceremony at the Basseterre High School Grounds Wednesday night as classmates, friends, staff and relatives gathered for a candle light vigil to say goodbye to the slain student, Leanna Napolean.
Amid the tears and soft cries coming from those gathered, Basseterre High principal Maurice Benjamin, offered a glimpse of who the 17-year-old was before her life came to an abrupt end, even before she had really begun to live it. She went missing May 8th and her remains were discovered in a shallow grave in the hills on June 14.
“Leanna, Tiney, as she was called to her friends, family and teachers was fun loving and free spirited, she aspired to achieve the goals that she set for herself and did not allow anyone to limit her happiness. Let us too follow her example and laugh more each day, make fun of ourselves and aspire to greater things. We ought not to ever forget her in our memories.”
Some of Leanna’s peers read scripture passages which spoke to comfort and solace after the death of a loved one. Church members and faculty led praise and worship sessions of solemn hymns punctuated by more uplifting songs.
Perhaps some of the most touching moments came during the open tributes.
“Leanna’s happiness and her attitude and the brilliance that she had is a bright spark that makes even this very long day, it makes the daylight last just a little longer.”
Shawn Richards, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Youth and Education, said in spite of the tragic circumstances surrounding Leanna’s death, there are still some bright spots to be found in her story.
“Death though we know it has to come at some point in time, it is never easy when it does arrive. Even when someone is sick and the person eventually dies, many of us are left to mourn because though we expected it, the feelings that we would have developed for that individual would cause us to express different signs of grief. It becomes even more difficult when the individual wasn’t sick and in particular when it is a young vibrant person full of life. In Leanna’s case, it is even further compounded when one of the accused persons in her death happens to be a brother, a family member.
"The grief is further compounded and there are many questions undoubtedly which will continue to linger in the minds of persons. Questions which perhaps we will never ever find the answers to, however, as we continues to ponder and we continue to wonder I do believe the life of Leanna is one that has many positive lessons for us as individuals and for us as a community.”
Close family members of Leanna wore t-shirts emblazoned with a picture from her childhood. They were called up to the podium where Pastor Erwin Warner from the Zion Moravian Church sang and prayed for them.
“Folks we are living in troublesome times; that’s the reality. We are living in times of uncertainty, that means the times in which we live they are not safe anymore. Even when you feel safe, you just don’t know what could happen, that’s the reality. And so amidst the difficult times that we live, how can we as people, how can we as school, as a family cope and find hope to move forward?
"We had the opportunity to visit the family … on Saturday, when we got there the guardian was there, we sat down at the table and in my mind I began to reflect on what am I going to say to comfort a guardian, a mother. The truth is my friend, humanly speaking, we do not have the capacity nor the ability to comfort such a heart. We don’t, we don’t have the capacity to comfort a heart that when you think about what happened to Leanna how do you begin to process that, but we have a God who can and as soon as we realize that we don’t have the answers for life’s problems it makes it a little more easier for us that means we have to look to God.
"We are living in a time where folks don’t have no regard for human life anymore, that’s sad, the time in which we are living is frightening, is scary, we are becoming prisoners in our own homes, that’s the reality, you can’t get away from that. And if we are honest with ourselves, leaders, God has the answers. He’s the only one who can bring relief to St Kitts, and as leaders we must point our people to God, not to any man, and it doesn’t matter who you bring from anywhere, it doesn’t matter where you bring them from they don’t have the answers because if they did we would see a difference already.
"We must turn our people to God, and so how do we find hope, how do we find the strength to cope amidst the conflict and the confusion that we have seen today. ”
The vigil closed with the lighting and laying down of candles, and attendees were asked to sign their name under Leanna’s portrait.