Dozens of Guyanese from the greater Richmond Hill area gathered on Wednesday evening May 24 in Smokey Park, 125 Street and 95th Ave., Little Guyana, Queens, for a remembrance and mourning candlelight service for the victims of the Madhia horrible fire tragedy. The deadly inferno at a secondary school student dormitory on Sunday night claimed the lives of nineteen school children and injured several others who suffered burns. Several others escaped injury thanks to the good-spiritedness and heroism of neighbors who broke down windows and doors to rescue them. The victims were innocent children.
The Little Guyana vigil was organized by community groups in Queens including the Federation of Hindu Mandirs. It grew from within the Guyanese community in Queens as a way to support the Guyanese nation and the grieving families of the victims of the fire tragedy as they process their loss. Some individuals brought flowers to the vigil. Organizers said it’s not just they or those who showed up at the rally who are mourning the loss of the victims. It’s the entire diaspora that has been devastated not just the families and communities of the many victims. The tragedy has been the talk in New York among every Guyanese and Caribbean national. There was deep sadness among the attendees, indeed of everyone who learn of the inferno. The entire diaspora is in mourning.
There were invocations by Imaam Safraz Bacchus, representing the Muslim community, Dharmacharya Ram Hardowar, representing the Hindu community, and Pastor James Richmond and Ms. Rogers, representing the Christian community.
It was a solemn occasion. Attendees held lit candles. Several uttered remarks in support of the victims.
Speakers included Ambassador Michael E Brotherson, Consulate General of Guyana in New York, and Ambassador Carolyn Rodrigues-Burkett, Permanent Representative of Guyana to the United Nations. Also delivering remarks were community leaders Albert Baldeo, City Council Candidate, Rusat Ramgopaul, NYGD Project leader Dr Tara Singh, and a Representative from the Sikh community. The opening remarks were delivered by broadcaster Ossie Rogers. The emcee of the proceedings was Ken Rampersaud, and the Vote of Thanks mas moved by Colleen Chattergoon.
The speakers expressed their deep grief and sorrow and extended solidarity with the victims and their families. They pledged to continue praying for them to deal with this colossal tragedy.
The speakers praised the President of Guyana for his exceptional leadership during this monumental tragedy. Great leadership was also attributed to Cabinet, supporting staff, the police, the army, the fire service, heroic volunteers, the medical team, and those who provided logistical support to rescue and aid the victims. While the vigil was in progress, there were simultaneous vigils in Bartica, Mabaruma, Georgetown, and Port Kaituma. New York City Hindu, Muslim, and Christian spiritual leaders blessed the proceedings and offered prayers for guidance to deal with this tragedy. The diaspora prayers and goodwill are with the victims’ families.
As Dharmacharya Pandit Ram Hardowar commented, during this period of sadness in our Guyanese community, we come together in prayers and light to remember the victims and fast recovery of those affected. Dr. Singh said it was senseless arson that destroyed a school dormitory and took so many young innocent lives. He commended the organizers of the memorial service.
Speakers urged the audience not to politicize this tragedy and focus their prayers and support for the victims and their families. They praised President Irfaan Ali for his exceptional leadership during this time as well as his Cabinet and supporting staff, including the medical. army, the police, the fire service, the airplane companies and pilots who transported the survivors and staff, and all those who provided logistical support to aid the families of survivors and the victims.
One of the immediate concerns among those gathered is to provide immediate assistance to the families of the victims to help them overcome shock and grief. Some individual spoke of a fundraising drive.