Not alone in the struggle

As a public service we reproduce for readers the full text of the speech delivered yesterday by Minister of Family, Stephen Lashley, at a special ceremony in Heroes Square to commemorate the September 3, 2010 Campus Trendz store fire in Tudor Street that took the lives of six young women.

I know that today, particularly for the families of our six young ladies who perished two years ago on this same day, that today is a day of very sad reflection – a day of pain… The tragic fire took the lives of six of our young, healthy Barbadian women.

It is a sad time because we need to, as a country, reflect on where we are and where we are going and we need to very firmly condemn violence in any shape or fashion and therefore although that we are standing here to remember the victims of the Campus Trendz tragedy, it is really a day that should not have happened in the first place. We should never be here mourning the loss of six of our productive citizens whose lights were taken away at a flash. And it is the kind of violence in our society that we need to be very vigilant about today because since we have seen this incident two years ago we continue to witness the ravages of violence, not only domestic violence but violence in our wider community and the very worrying escalation of a certain type of crime which we need to put a stop to.

I know that today, certainly on my own behalf, on the behalf of the Government of Barbados, I cannot offer the relatives, the friends, the acquaintances, the mummies and daddies of our six heroines; I cannot offer you any words that could wipe away the tears, the sorrow, the grief – as a matter of fact, none of us can do that. What we could do is to huddle with you, hold your hands and touch our hearts together as we allow you to know that you are not alone in this struggle, in this time of recollection where you remember the lives of all six young ladies and the significant contribution they made to your families and your communities.

It’s a lost that is very difficult to recover from, but I think we need to use this opportunity, this day of National reflection, to make a pledge as Barbadians, that never again will we be complacent to violent crime and that violent crime does not only affect one person, two persons, the next door neighbour, because the pain that this particular incident has inflicted on all of us should tell us that as a country, as a community, we have again to become our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper.

No longer can we sit behind the bars of our homes or the fences and gates where we live and feel that we are safe. We have to take a stand together and certainly as far as the Government is concerned, we recognize that we have a leadership role in this regard. But this problem transcends the role of Government, this is a social problem, this is a community problem, this is a family problem and therefore anybody who thinks about inflicting pain and inflicting violence on anyone must stop and reflect that the target of your violence, the target of your tragedy could very well be your friend’s friend, your sister’s friend, your mother’s daughter, your father’s daughter; in other words, our nation’s children.

We are all in this together and I pray and hope that we will never again have to come together to not only reflect but to strongly condemn violence in any shape or fashion. I hope that our words of comfort will add to what has to happen – the healing of those families touched by this national disaster. I hope you will feel that we are here for you and we can come close to you and speak soft words of comfort and to allow you to know that we feel your pain and we stand shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand with you as you remember this tragic incident year after year because we know that this will not go away.

A life etched away and taken away can never ever be brought back, but the memories continue. We will remember also the tragedy that occurred in Joe’s River as well, where we lost a number of our citizens. I know because my god-daughter was killed in that tragic accident and I know the pain, I can identify with the pain and the sorrow.

As a country I want to make the clarion call that as a country we wake up once and for all and together protect each other and condemn, not only violence that results in death but any type of violence in our society because there is always a beginning. From the smallest child, if he or she sees and learns about violence then he or she would tend to practice violence. Within our families we have to take a stand we have to teach our children that violence in any form is wrong. So as they grow older they appreciate the value of life and that they will not be inclined to take life, but to respect life.

With those words I want to also congratulate the Foundation for coming together and certainly leading and bringing us to this point of reflection and of course working along with the Government. The Prime Minister of Barbados would have very quickly indicated his total support and the support of the Government for this initiative. It is a sad day, but it is a day that we have no choice but to come out and take a stand, and I would really like to extend once again our deepest sympathy and condolences as we remember an incident that should never have occurred.

Thank you.

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