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HomeNewsLocal newsTearful Tributes for a Child's Life Lost Too Soon

Tearful Tributes for a Child’s Life Lost Too Soon

The Department of Education hosted a vigil Wednesday night in memory of nine-year-old Ja’Queda Isaac. (Source photo by James Gardner)

On a Wednesday afternoon in spring, the air around Emancipation Garden is seasonably warm. Mild sunshine lights up the new foliage on the trees. The calm waters of Charlotte Amalie Harbor can be seen from a distance. And with V.I. Carnival a few days away, children like Ja’Qeada Isaac might be practicing some dance moves to perform with her troupe at the upcoming parades.

But Issac, 9, can’t do that anymore. Police say she apparently drowned in the harbor on March 16 after being tied to a cinder block and pushed in. Anyah Smith, the child’s mother, has been charged with first-degree murder.

Community members packed Emancipation Garden for Wednesday evening’s vigil. (Source photo by James Gardner)

Friends and family, educators, classmates and neighbors gathered in the garden to remember an energetic fourth grader from the Jane E. Tuitt Elementary School. Many wept, others prayed while others held candles.

The Rising Stars Youth Steel Orchestra and the Charlotte Amalie Concert Choir led the list of young musicians playing hymns and tributes. Isaac’s fellow performers from Elite Dynasty Dancers used the David Monsanto Bandstand to stage a dance in her honor.

Members of the Elite Dancers, a performance group Ja’Queda was part of, mourned the loss of their friend Wednesday. (Source photo by James Gardner)

Tuitt School Principal Thelea Bedminster called Isaac “our jovial little princess,” recalling how she spent her lunch hours greeting her teachers with hugs for the day. Junior Firefighters leader Patricia Benjamin said that over the three years that Isaac was involved with the youth service group, not a Saturday went by without her.

“She was a joy. We will miss her dearly,” Bedminster said.

Pastor Michael McDonald urged the group to prayer; not just for Isaac but also for her mother.

Education Commissioner Dionne Wells-Hedrington acknowledged the sorrowful mood of the gathering. “When situations like this happen, there’s not a lot of words that can be said to soothe the brokenhearted. My heart bleeds,” she said. “This is not what our community is about, but this is something we have to walk through together.”

Education Commissioner Dionne Wells-Hedrington leads the crowd in remembrance of Tuitt student Ja’Queda Isaac. (Source photo by James Gardner)

Wells-Hedrington then asked Lt. Gov. Tregenza Roach to say a few words. By then, the afternoon sun had dimmed towards twilight. The crowd drew closer with those holding candles standing near the bandstand.

Roach told a story about a young student who was part of a group who wanted to learn about newspaper writing. He remembered how engaged she was in the lessons he volunteered to teach, and how a few months later she died in a house fire.

There is no way to know how long any life will last, he said, but even a young life like Isaac’s can touch many others.

“I want to honor her by being here and being grateful for the time she spent with us,” the lieutenant governor said.

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