19 memorialised in 20th year of remembrance

Of the nineteen (19) persons who lost lives on June 25, 1997

The 20th year of remembrance of the 19 persons who lost their lives in volcanic event of June 25, 1997 was advertised by the media as a Remembrance Service. It was advertised in perhaps a more significant place, where hundreds if not thousands gather each weekend, the churches, as a Thanksgiving Service.

The ceremony organized by the Government of Montserrat through the Premier’s office to pay tribute to the nineteen persons took place on Sunday, June 25, 2017, and to commemorate 20 years since the tragedy occurred back in 1997.

Following the playing of the National Anthem, Territorial Song of Montserrat, rendition by the Emerald Community Singers and prayer, the chairman of the organizing Committee, Mrs. Adelina Tuitt advised that there would not be a chairperson but the program would simply flow as presented.

Remarks from several dignitaries beginning with the Hon. Premier Donaldson Romeo who highlighted that the tragedy took place despite efforts by himself and others to convince the authorities to evacuate the areas that were affected, remarking also that there are those “who have struggled with terrible feelings of guilt and loss.”

“…And I know from many conversations I had and I’ve had over the past years that I’ve not been the only one who have struggled with terrible feelings of guilt and loss after that fateful day. I also know that facing up squarely to the full truth of why they died is a crucial part of the healing process for all of us I often say the truth however painful will set us all free,” he said.

On behalf of the Government and People of Montserrat, he officiaIly, “express our sympathy and offer prayers and support to the families and friends of those who lost their lives twenty years ago today.  This commemoration indicates that we remember your pain and your grief and we will never forget each and every one of the 19 who lost their lives that day…”

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.

Her Excellency the Governor Miss Elizabeth Carriere brought greetings of her own and those from the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO). “Anyone who knows anything about Montserrat and its history is aware that 25 June 1997 was a significant day, not just as part of that history, but also as the darkest time of the volcanic eruption,” she began, adding, “But it will always be remembered as the day when 19 people died,” while  suggesting  her understand that there may have been others who died that day.

She acknowledged the presence of former Governor Frank Savage whose name will be long remembered, being the Governor when the crisis began and for some time after, featuring in many things associated with the eruption and the crisis; and who, “continues to support Montserrat today through the Montserrat Foundation.”

The Governor read then, a message from the new Minister for the Overseas Territories Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on the commemoration, who first expressed his delight and honour, “to have been appointed the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister with responsibility for the Overseas Territories. The minister said: “The start of the eruption in 1995 and the tragic loss of lives in 1997 will never be forgotten.  Nothing can erase the shock of the eruption and the tragic loss of life that was suffered,” promising like several before him, “The UK stands with Montserrat and is committed to working with the government and the people of Montserrat to build a better future for the island.”

“As you mark the events of 25 June 1997, my thoughts and prayers are with all who lost loved ones and all those affected by this tragic event,” the message ended.

Originally, the FCO minister was due to attend in person at the remembrance but for the general election and Lord Tariq’s new appointment.

Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Easton Taylor-Farrell, added his brief remarks, also noting that June 25, 1997 was still a painful memory for many in the community. He remembered. “…nineteen family members who lost their lives no words can explain your loss and none suitable to ease your pain.,” he said. “They were our mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, niece and nephews, husbands and wives. They were our schoolmates, our colleagues and friends, all together our fellow countrymen and women. They all left home that morning to carry out their daily chores but never to return home, never a moment to say goodbye.”

The Department for International Development (DFID) representative Martin Dawson, also read a message from the Rt Hon The Lord Bates of Langbaurgh (Minister of State, Department for International Development)  to the people of Montserrat on the 20th anniversary of the Montserrat volcanic eruption on 25 June 1997.

“I am honoured to join Lord Ahmad, FCO Minister for the Overseas Territories in marking the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the devastating Soufriere Hills volcanic eruption on 25 June 1997. An event that claimed 19 lives,” he said adding how, “I recall well the devastation and tragic loss of life on that day and the huge outpouring of sympathy and support for Montserrat and its people.”

“The loss of loved ones will undoubtedly be as raw today as it was on that fateful day,” he said in the message, adding, “It is fitting that you remember all those who were tragically affected but also take time to reflect on how far you have progressed as a country since then, with your strength and resilience. As you mark this occasion, my thoughts and best wishes are with you all.”

On the program/Order of Service, under the item Brief Tributes, a single tribute was presented by the chairperson. It came from Finola Grant the daughter of the deceased Beryl Naomi Grant-Farrell.  The single tribute from Finola in Toronto, Canada, represented Beryl’s other children, Matha, Edward, Hilarine, Sylvester and Eustace.

Mrs. Tuitt read. “There is a saying that time heals wounds, but 20 years later, we will still miss her so much. It still feels like yesterday. For us there is no closure, Hence I say to all love and cherish your parents when they are still alive with you…We never the chance at any time to repay her, sing with her, hug her, console her, No, she was just taken away swiftly and painfully…”

After renditions by the Emerald Community Singers who were seated onstage throughout, the Montserrat Christian Council featured Pastor Tony Allen read the scripture passage taken from 2 Chronicles Chapter 7:12-22 and followed by Bishop Abraham Riley who delivered a homily which was fitting with the theme of healing that backed the 20th Year Remember service.

Bishop Riley began with what he says is a song he sings wherever he goes, “I know the Lord will make a way for me.” He said that he will base his homily on verse 14 of the just read scripture reading. “This,” he said, “is probably the most well-known and best loved verse in 2 Chronicles.” It reads: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, “then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

“If we pray and if we seek his face and if we turn from our wicked ways, some ways are good and some are wicked…a covenant God is making with his people) I will hear from heaven and I will forgive their sins and I will heal their land – God wants to heal us, God wants to forgive us, God wants to bless us, we talk about blessings, What we have had in the past will be nothing if we will humble ourselves before God, tell God we are sorry where we need to, turn from our immorality, turn from our injustice, turn from our ungodliness, turn from our unrighteousness…let’s walk humbly before our God,” he ends.

The hymn ‘Search me O God’ closed the service followed by the unveiling of a plaque with the names of the persons who died. The plaque was shown for viewing and then militarily escorted to the National Museum where former Governor of Montserrat Frank Savage was to place it on the select wall at the museum.

This last event was symbolically performed by the Governor as it arrived too late for the necessary preparations to be made. This unfortunate delay turned out to be some blessing in disguise as it was soon realised that the names shown on the plaque, were incorrect. There was an incorrect name of Bernadine Celestine while that of Anthony Sutton, husband of Virginia Sutton, was missing.

Governor Savage gave some brief remarks with his symbolic gesture of placing the plaque on the wall. He began by expressing how honoured he was to be invited by Her Excellency and the Hon. Premier “to assist in the placing of the memorial plaque today.”

“Today is a most poignant day in the history of Montserrat, as we come together to remember and commemorate the lives of those who of died tragically on June 25, 1997…” he said

He said there those present who could remember what they were doing and where they were at that time, recalling how his wife Veronica and he were landing in a plane at Blackburne airport (the last official LIAT flight to have landed at Blackburne).

“The event changed all our lives forever. This memorial will now serve as a bleak reminder…we use it as a reminder of the needs of the community to remain ever vigilant against the power of the occasional wrath of nature.

“Montserrat Standing as it does in the Eastern Caribbean has faced extreme dangers, hurricane and earthquakes, and volcano …, all of which have extracted a great toll on this community, adding, Montserratians have developed a great resilience and incomparable spirit and an insatiable desire to remain on this beautiful island and to overcome the forces of nature…”

The Governor said the day is one to remember and thanking those who gave so much to assist with the most vulnerable members of our community throughout the height of volcanic activity, remembering, the police force, defence force, fire service red cross, the members of the Disaster Management agency…

He then symbolically noted the plaque and closed by hoping that he will return one day to see it in place, finally thanking the international community for the support given during the crisis, noting the scientists and prime ministers and people throughout the region.

We are to remember these people, the correct names of those that will eventually end up on the plaque. Their deaths brought urgent attention which again to this day as we recall 20 years since the tragic event, the question still is how strong the indication of the casual way the Montserrat recovery has progressed, or retrogressed.

  • Alwin Allen, 44, a livestock farmer, died in Farms.
  • Winston Allen, 41, chauffeur and livestock farmer, died in Farms.
  • Benjamin / Joseph Brown, 71, a farmer, died in the central area of Montserrat.
  • Felina Celestine, 45, a farmer, died in Farrells. ((sister of Isolyn)
  • Melville Cuffy, 39, a farm worker, died in Farrells.
  • Beryl Grant, 73, farmer and huckster, died in Harris.
  • Edith Greenaway, 69, resident, died at her home in Streathams.
  • Joseph Greenaway, 62, resident, died at his home in Windy Hill.
  • Mary Bernardine Harris, 44, resident, died at her home in Farms.
  • Alicia Joseph, 23, resident, died at her home in Farms.
  • Allister Joseph, 3-months, died with his mother in Farms.
  • Isolyn Lewis, 43, a farmer, died in Farrells. (sister of Felina)
  • Chana Rueben Boatswaine/Horrance Murraine, 66, airport worker, died in Farms.
  • Keithley Ponde, 32, a farmer, died in Farrells.
  • Hezekiah Riley, age unknown, described as mentally unstable, died at his home in Streathams.
  • Phillip Robinson, 66, a farmer, died in Streathams.
  • Anthony Sutton, 72, resident, died at his home in Farms.
  • Virginia Sutton, 70, resident, died at her home in Farms. (wife)
  • Joseph / Simon Tuitt / White, 45, airport worker, died in Farms.

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Of the nineteen (19) persons who lost lives on June 25, 1997

The 20th year of remembrance of the 19 persons who lost their lives in volcanic event of June 25, 1997 was advertised by the media as a Remembrance Service. It was advertised in perhaps a more significant place, where hundreds if not thousands gather each weekend, the churches, as a Thanksgiving Service.

The ceremony organized by the Government of Montserrat through the Premier’s office to pay tribute to the nineteen persons took place on Sunday, June 25, 2017, and to commemorate 20 years since the tragedy occurred back in 1997.

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Following the playing of the National Anthem, Territorial Song of Montserrat, rendition by the Emerald Community Singers and prayer, the chairman of the organizing Committee, Mrs. Adelina Tuitt advised that there would not be a chairperson but the program would simply flow as presented.

Remarks from several dignitaries beginning with the Hon. Premier Donaldson Romeo who highlighted that the tragedy took place despite efforts by himself and others to convince the authorities to evacuate the areas that were affected, remarking also that there are those “who have struggled with terrible feelings of guilt and loss.”

“…And I know from many conversations I had and I’ve had over the past years that I’ve not been the only one who have struggled with terrible feelings of guilt and loss after that fateful day. I also know that facing up squarely to the full truth of why they died is a crucial part of the healing process for all of us I often say the truth however painful will set us all free,” he said.

On behalf of the Government and People of Montserrat, he officiaIly, “express our sympathy and offer prayers and support to the families and friends of those who lost their lives twenty years ago today.  This commemoration indicates that we remember your pain and your grief and we will never forget each and every one of the 19 who lost their lives that day…”

Download (PDF, Unknown)

.

Her Excellency the Governor Miss Elizabeth Carriere brought greetings of her own and those from the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO). “Anyone who knows anything about Montserrat and its history is aware that 25 June 1997 was a significant day, not just as part of that history, but also as the darkest time of the volcanic eruption,” she began, adding, “But it will always be remembered as the day when 19 people died,” while  suggesting  her understand that there may have been others who died that day.

She acknowledged the presence of former Governor Frank Savage whose name will be long remembered, being the Governor when the crisis began and for some time after, featuring in many things associated with the eruption and the crisis; and who, “continues to support Montserrat today through the Montserrat Foundation.”

The Governor read then, a message from the new Minister for the Overseas Territories Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on the commemoration, who first expressed his delight and honour, “to have been appointed the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister with responsibility for the Overseas Territories. The minister said: “The start of the eruption in 1995 and the tragic loss of lives in 1997 will never be forgotten.  Nothing can erase the shock of the eruption and the tragic loss of life that was suffered,” promising like several before him, “The UK stands with Montserrat and is committed to working with the government and the people of Montserrat to build a better future for the island.”

“As you mark the events of 25 June 1997, my thoughts and prayers are with all who lost loved ones and all those affected by this tragic event,” the message ended.

Originally, the FCO minister was due to attend in person at the remembrance but for the general election and Lord Tariq’s new appointment.

Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Easton Taylor-Farrell, added his brief remarks, also noting that June 25, 1997 was still a painful memory for many in the community. He remembered. “…nineteen family members who lost their lives no words can explain your loss and none suitable to ease your pain.,” he said. “They were our mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, niece and nephews, husbands and wives. They were our schoolmates, our colleagues and friends, all together our fellow countrymen and women. They all left home that morning to carry out their daily chores but never to return home, never a moment to say goodbye.”

The Department for International Development (DFID) representative Martin Dawson, also read a message from the Rt Hon The Lord Bates of Langbaurgh (Minister of State, Department for International Development)  to the people of Montserrat on the 20th anniversary of the Montserrat volcanic eruption on 25 June 1997.

“I am honoured to join Lord Ahmad, FCO Minister for the Overseas Territories in marking the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the devastating Soufriere Hills volcanic eruption on 25 June 1997. An event that claimed 19 lives,” he said adding how, “I recall well the devastation and tragic loss of life on that day and the huge outpouring of sympathy and support for Montserrat and its people.”

“The loss of loved ones will undoubtedly be as raw today as it was on that fateful day,” he said in the message, adding, “It is fitting that you remember all those who were tragically affected but also take time to reflect on how far you have progressed as a country since then, with your strength and resilience. As you mark this occasion, my thoughts and best wishes are with you all.”

On the program/Order of Service, under the item Brief Tributes, a single tribute was presented by the chairperson. It came from Finola Grant the daughter of the deceased Beryl Naomi Grant-Farrell.  The single tribute from Finola in Toronto, Canada, represented Beryl’s other children, Matha, Edward, Hilarine, Sylvester and Eustace.

Mrs. Tuitt read. “There is a saying that time heals wounds, but 20 years later, we will still miss her so much. It still feels like yesterday. For us there is no closure, Hence I say to all love and cherish your parents when they are still alive with you…We never the chance at any time to repay her, sing with her, hug her, console her, No, she was just taken away swiftly and painfully…”

After renditions by the Emerald Community Singers who were seated onstage throughout, the Montserrat Christian Council featured Pastor Tony Allen read the scripture passage taken from 2 Chronicles Chapter 7:12-22 and followed by Bishop Abraham Riley who delivered a homily which was fitting with the theme of healing that backed the 20th Year Remember service.

Bishop Riley began with what he says is a song he sings wherever he goes, “I know the Lord will make a way for me.” He said that he will base his homily on verse 14 of the just read scripture reading. “This,” he said, “is probably the most well-known and best loved verse in 2 Chronicles.” It reads: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, “then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

“If we pray and if we seek his face and if we turn from our wicked ways, some ways are good and some are wicked…a covenant God is making with his people) I will hear from heaven and I will forgive their sins and I will heal their land – God wants to heal us, God wants to forgive us, God wants to bless us, we talk about blessings, What we have had in the past will be nothing if we will humble ourselves before God, tell God we are sorry where we need to, turn from our immorality, turn from our injustice, turn from our ungodliness, turn from our unrighteousness…let’s walk humbly before our God,” he ends.

The hymn ‘Search me O God’ closed the service followed by the unveiling of a plaque with the names of the persons who died. The plaque was shown for viewing and then militarily escorted to the National Museum where former Governor of Montserrat Frank Savage was to place it on the select wall at the museum.

This last event was symbolically performed by the Governor as it arrived too late for the necessary preparations to be made. This unfortunate delay turned out to be some blessing in disguise as it was soon realised that the names shown on the plaque, were incorrect. There was an incorrect name of Bernadine Celestine while that of Anthony Sutton, husband of Virginia Sutton, was missing.

Governor Savage gave some brief remarks with his symbolic gesture of placing the plaque on the wall. He began by expressing how honoured he was to be invited by Her Excellency and the Hon. Premier “to assist in the placing of the memorial plaque today.”

“Today is a most poignant day in the history of Montserrat, as we come together to remember and commemorate the lives of those who of died tragically on June 25, 1997…” he said

He said there those present who could remember what they were doing and where they were at that time, recalling how his wife Veronica and he were landing in a plane at Blackburne airport (the last official LIAT flight to have landed at Blackburne).

“The event changed all our lives forever. This memorial will now serve as a bleak reminder…we use it as a reminder of the needs of the community to remain ever vigilant against the power of the occasional wrath of nature.

“Montserrat Standing as it does in the Eastern Caribbean has faced extreme dangers, hurricane and earthquakes, and volcano …, all of which have extracted a great toll on this community, adding, Montserratians have developed a great resilience and incomparable spirit and an insatiable desire to remain on this beautiful island and to overcome the forces of nature…”

The Governor said the day is one to remember and thanking those who gave so much to assist with the most vulnerable members of our community throughout the height of volcanic activity, remembering, the police force, defence force, fire service red cross, the members of the Disaster Management agency…

He then symbolically noted the plaque and closed by hoping that he will return one day to see it in place, finally thanking the international community for the support given during the crisis, noting the scientists and prime ministers and people throughout the region.

We are to remember these people, the correct names of those that will eventually end up on the plaque. Their deaths brought urgent attention which again to this day as we recall 20 years since the tragic event, the question still is how strong the indication of the casual way the Montserrat recovery has progressed, or retrogressed.