Friday, March 30, 2012

TOP STORY >> Memorial held for students

Leader staff writer

Teachers, classmates, parents and community members gathered at Warren Dupree Elementary School in Jacksonville on Friday afternoon to remember the lives of students Dequan Singleton, Sydni Singleton and Haylee Beavers.

Dequan Singleton, 10; Sydni Singleton, 9; Haylee Beavers, 6; mother Marilyn Beavers, 30; and sister Emily Beavers, 4, died from smoke inhalation after a small kitchen fire in their duplex at 3A S. Simmons Drive on March 22.

A group funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. today at St. Lukes Baptist Church in Jacksonville.

Principal Janice Walker said, “Haylee is remembered by her teacher, (JoAnne Buchanan), and her classmates for her happy personality, the wonderful hugs she shared and for being a great classroom helper.

“Sydni is remembered by her teacher (Lena Washington) and her classmates for her outgoing personality and her common sense approach, along with her competitive spirit. She often shared her beliefs and feelings with Mrs. Washington regarding her spiritual understanding of God.

“Dequan is remembered by his teacher, (Angela Sprow), and his classmates for his fun-loving spirit, his sweet smile that would warm your heart, his love of science and his amazing math ability. Students during recess remember his favorite expression, ‘tag, you’re it!’

“As principal of this school, I remember Haylee’s feisty spirit, Sydni’s sassiness and Dequan’s radiant smile that would brighten anyone’s day. I ask that you forever hold tight to these memories, as they will get us through the days to come.”

Mayor Gary Fletcher said, “When Sydni’s name was mentioned and how she understood something even at such a tender age about the spiritual aspect of her life, it gives me peace and comfort to know that she’s in a place that we all desire to be someday. I’d like to think that they’re still a part of us.

“God is still god. God is still great and god loves you. Jesus is lord. That’s all you need to know sometimes, when you want an answer to why,” the mayor said.

“We’re all hurting. It’s OK to hurt. But I want you to know something. If you still have a hard time dealing with this as time goes on, you need to be able to talk. You’ve got teachers, counselors, principals, family members and friends that are there to talk to you,” Fletch said.

There’s nothing wrong with talking. In fact, that’s the best medicine of all. So today we cry; tomorrow we will laugh and share those memories,” he said.

Fifth-grader Alexandria Gardner read “Goodbye,” a poem written by Tammy Marie Denus.

She said, “We always take for granted what we thought we’d never lose because we never thought it would happen, until we heard the dreaded news. They say you were chosen for His garden, his precious handpicked bouquet. God really needed them, that’s why they couldn’t stay. Saying goodbye is never easy. It’s the hardest thing to do. But what hurts us even more is not the chance to say it to you. So today, Jesus, as you are listening in your home above, would you go and find our friends, and give them all our love.”

The children’s teachers, along with the mayor and the principal, released dove-shaped balloons into the air for all five victims.

Media specialist Pamela Free-man said, “For centuries the white dove has been a beautiful symbol of love, hope, peace and the Holy Spirit. In peaceful representation, they will all drift upwards home to the heavens above. Their smiles are forever stamped in our hearts and we will remember them always. “

“You’ll Be in My Heart” by Phil Collins was played as the students released more balloons.

The balloons floated above the tearful faces of adults and children until they disappeared.