November 26, 2020

Hundreds remember teenager Justin

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Justin Henry

The most poignant moment came early when Justin Henry’s half-sister, Shenice, 10, rose to read the poem she had written to her brother.

Through tears, she struggled to read the simple verse on the four-foot-high poster board she had brought along from her Miami home. She had adorned the display with photographs of Justin, their family, herself and her brother in happier times.

As much as she tried, Shenice couldn’t restrain the weeping that shook her small body. Handing the microphone to her Aunt Patricia, who had accompanied her to Cayman, she buried her head in the older woman’s skirts.

Aunt Patricia read the five lines, then Shenice stepped up, composure regained: ”I know Justin’s spirit is with us this evening. Why I couldn’t read the poem is that knowing my brother is dead is really hard for me.

“When my mother told me, I broke down, and now it feels like a part of me is missing. This was just a reminder of how much I loved him. I really wish he was still alive to see all the people here,” she told the packed stands at the George Town Primary School Annex on Sunday night.

More than 500 people, many of them classmates, football teammates, neighbours, friends and family – including mother Lisa, grandmother Dorothy and sisters Jesanna, Janaya, Jahsara  and Shenice – packed the seats at the field, lighting candles and reflecting on the passing of the 16-year-old who drowned on Boxing Day after leaping from the cliffs near Pedro Castle.

Hundreds wore tee-shirts inscribed with the legend “Safe in the Arms of Jesus” across a picture of the popular young Further Education Centre student, footballer and friend. A half-dozen people took the microphone, describing their memories and calling for unity.

Minister Mark Scotland joins members of the public during a candle light vigil in memory of Justin

Minister for Youth, Sports and Culture Mark Scotland, accompanied by Minster for Community Affairs Mike Adam, addressed the crowd, calling Justin “a bright young man heading in the right direction”, and lamenting that his death was necessary to bring the community together.

“People should never have to bury their children. This is what has to happen to get this kind of turnout tonight. Why not when he was playing football?” he asked, pleading for young people to consider their choices.

“Please take a lesson,” he said,” asking people to stay away from Pedro Castle, pointing to the only hours-earlier duplicate drowning at 4:30 of 21-year-old Adam Rankine who jumped from the same cliffs near Pedro Castle.

A similar theme was repeated the next afternoon at Justin’s overflowing Walker’s Road Church of God funeral. As Pastor Felix Manzanares importuned the crowd to unify in hope, George Town politician Alden McLaughlin asked that choices be made wisely.

“I speak as the father of two boys who have done the Pedro Bluff jump more than once,” he said, echoing dismay similar to Minister Adam, who earlier confessed to hearing the same from his family.

“Everything involves a degree of risk, but when the risk is so great that you may wind up dead, just don’t do it,” he said. “Death is final. You can’t come back.”

Under a 10-foot projection of photos from Justin’s life, including a final  video of an impromptu classroom dance, the congregation, Justin’s family and 35 fellow members of Justin’s Cayman Athletic Sports Association football team wept openly.

Interment followed immediately, as darkness closed in and the family looked on, in Dixie Cemetery, George Town’s oldest.

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