Their message was responsibility and awareness.
Less than two weeks after four area teens perished in a tragic car crash on the Southern State Parkway, hundreds turned out to a candle light vigil at Phil Rizzuto Park in Richmond Hill.
Family members, friends and neighborhood residents gathered to remember Christopher Khan, Neal Rajapa, Darian Ramnarine and Peter Kanhai. Many wore shirts or sweatshirts with their pictures in order to keep their memory alive. The driver, Joseph Beer, survived the crash.
Relatives of each of the young men lit a single candle sitting on a chair representing empty places in four homes because of the accident. Following the lighting, religious leaders prayed for the community and the victims.
The idea of the night was to ensure there was better communication between parents and children, said Dr. Dhanpaul Narine, one of the vigil’s five organizers. If there was a better dialogue in the community, Narine said, tragedies like this could be prevented. He said this expanded beyond the home, into schools and at places of worship.
“We should communicate; communication is an important aspect of any relationship,” he said. “It takes a whole village; the whole village is right here. The entire village is not operating as it should be, and that is what we hope to achieve here this evening.”
If this idea of responsibility when driving, and keeping in touch with parents, could reach one teen, then it could spread from there, Narine and others hope.
The idea of responsibility resonated with some of the parents who joined the crowds in the park.
John Maharana’s son had been friends with the deceased and he was there to show support for the community and his son. His son, Maharana said, was still trying to grasp the untimely deaths.
What he hoped the youth of the community got from the night was a new perspective on responsibility and care.
“As a parent, I would imagine what those parents are going through right now, having to lose their young kids,” he said. “I would hate to be in their [shoes] right now. But I just hope these other kids look at this and learn. Let them take this as a good lesson now: these kids have died in vain for them to use as a good example to make themselves better, be more responsible. Mommy and dad are not going to be with you 24/7 told hold your hand to guide you.”