Tuesday, April 03, 2012

EDITORIAL >> If we cease to grieve

We want to acknowledge the compassionate and caring teachers and staff of Dupree Elementary in Jacksonville, who last week honored their three students who perished by smoke inhalation along with their mother and youngest sibling.

Marilyn Beavers, 30, Dequan Singleton, 10, Sydni Singleton, 9, Haylee Beavers, 6, and Emily Beavers, 4, died after a small kitchen fire in their duplex went undetected.

Teachers, classmates, parents and community members, including Mayor Gary Fletcher, gathered to pay tribute in the small field adjacent to the school where they released white dove-shaped balloons and paid tribute to their classmates who perished.

Funeral services for the five were held Saturday at St. Luke Baptist Church in Jacksonville.

The three Dupree Elementary students will live on in the memories of their classmates and teachers. Principal Janice Walker recounted the special traits of each, then said, “I ask that you forever hold tight to these memories, as they will get us through the days to come.”

Lena Washington, Sydni’s teacher, said she was stunned by the deaths. She left Sydni’s chair and desk in place as she told the class of the tragedy. “On Tuesday,” she said last week, “I came in and there were some stuffed animals in the chair and more have been added since...Each is called Sydni.”

All of this is in stark contrast to Florida school officials’ reactions to the death of Trayvon Martin last month in Sanford, Fla. The 17-year-old was shot dead by a neighborhood watch captain in circumstances still under investigation. School officials there chose to ignore the youth’s death, sweeping it under the carpet without a mention, much to the dismay of his classmates, many of whom were his friends. Ignoring his death led to protests from students who were unable to express their grief.

On the other hand, Dupree Elementary’s staff saw an immediate need to allow their students to grieve. This is laudatory and, according to experts on grieving, a most helpful way to allow those stricken by grief to deal with its ravages as soon as possible. And so life goes on but in a new, positive direction.

Warren Dupree Elementary is no stranger to the perils of death, having lost a student just last November. Cheyenne Walters succumbed Nov. 22 after a second failed heart transplant. She was a fifth-grader at the school and a member of Dequan’s class.

The community could take a lesson from the teachers and staff at Dupree Elementary. We are still reeling from the accident on Hwy. 161, which left a veteran firefighter dead and another fireman and a policeman seriously injured.

That accident, still under investigation, occurred when the son of an accident victim allegedly responded to her call for help. Driving a mini-van, he plowed into the three first responders as they were attempting to rescue his mother.

The community is being asked to open its wallets for the four families who suffered in the two separate and recent tragedies. A fund has been set up at Regions Bank for Marilyn Beavers and her four children to help with burial expenses. Donations can be sent to routing number 082000109 for account number 0166651727.

A fund has also been set up at Arvest Bank for the families of Capt. Donald Jones, a 31-year veteran firefighter, firefighter/engineer Jason Bowmaster and police officer Daniel DiMatteo. Donations may be made at any Arvest branch. Jones was buried on March 24. Bowmaster and DiMatteo continue to recover from serious injuries.

In a letter of consolation to his wife after the death of their youngest and only daughter, the ancient Greek historian Plutarch pleaded with her not to give in to excessive grieving over the 2-year-old’s death. Yet he conceded that grieving is a necessary and good thing. “If we cease to grieve,” he said, “we may cease to remember.”

We should learn by example. Thank you, Dupree Elementary.