May 23, 2005 — T'Kajrah Wharton, 18 months old, won the youngest participant trophy in the second annual Walk/run Against Violence on Jason Carroll Memorial Day Sunday. Carroll, then 18, lost his life to gun violence five years ago. T'Kajrah lost her cousin, Jamall Richards, 22, to gun violence April 28 this year.
T'Kajrah, actually, made the walk in the arms of her mother, Taima Harvey, Richards' cousin. Richards' mother, Parime Harvey, sat on the wall with other family members in Emancipation Garden listening to the after-race ceremony. Celia Carroll encouraged everyone to "do something when you see violence. Don't turn your head. We are together. We deserve to live, and not be gunned down."
Carroll said, "We are very happy to see this great turnout taking a stand by coming out and saying gun violence should not be tolerated. I'm grateful for the opportunity to use this race to raise funds to send a youngster to further his or her education."
Anyssa Richardson, a Charlotte Amalie High School senior, won the essay contest with a 1,000 word essay on "How the Virgin Islands will stop excessive violence in its community." Richardson will receive a scholarship in Jason Carroll's name for freshman year expenses at the University of the Virgin Islands.
Beverly Harvey Miller, Richards' aunt spoke of her nephew's last moments. Fighting back tears, and with Celia Carroll's arm around her shoulders, Miller described how Richards, after he had been shot, got in his car to drive to the hospital, hitting two cars on his way. "He got out of his car and went to see if those people were hurt," Miller said, "and then got in his car and drew his last breath, and none of us were there to put our arms around him. I never thought the day would come when this would happen to someone I love, someone so close to me."
The Carrolls have done something. Months after their son died from gun violence five years ago, Celia Carroll started a chapter of Mothers Against Guns (MAG) in the Virgin Islands. Gov. Charles W. Turnbull proclaimed Sunday, May 22, Mothers Against Guns Day and Jason Carroll Memorial Day.
About 200 people turned out for Sunday's celebration B runners, walkers, their counterparts, and some who simply came for the ceremony to show support.
This year's event featured a Memorial Wall, which was placed in the garden for people to tack up notes about their loved ones lost to gun violence, and the Richards family was represented. Taime Harvey wrote "Gun violence has affected me because I lost Jamall and it affected me very badly." Parime Harvey simply wrote "My son, Jamall Richards, was killed by a gun."
The race drew a cross section of the community — attorneys, housewives, students, teachers, senators, some visitors and lots of people who just wanted to support the Carrolls.
There was a strong feeling of camaraderie in the garden as people shared cold drinks, and cheered one another on as the prizes were announced.
And almost everybody got a prize. At least, everybody got a medal, on a red, white and blue band with a brass medal celebrating the day. And almost everybody got a T-shirt.
The race started shortly after 4 p.m. on the waterfront near the Coast Guard dock, and wound down through Frenchtown to Addelita Cancryn Junior High School and back.
Joseph Trunk, who was principal at Cancryn for 13 years, was visiting with his son, Ryan, who was a friend of Jason Carroll and Jason's younger brother, Jamall. "I walked today," Trunk said, "Ryan was the runner." Trunk was chatting with Gloria Salas-Lindquist, long-time Cancryn teacher whom Trunk hired about 18 years ago. Lindquist was still out of breath, and red-faced. "I think I might have been first, or at least in my age group," she said.
And, as it turned out she came out first over-all in the women's group at 15:47. Bill Thompson headed the men's group at 12:07. Cancryn school was the best represented with more than 20 runners, many from the school's honor society. A complete list of the runners will be posted in the Source.
Sharon Keating had a fine time. She walked from beginning to end. "I have no idea what time I made," Keating said. "I know my limits. It's my first time in this and it's a great cause." Keating said she ran two miles in another race last year "and I was almost sick to my stomach later. Now, I feel great."
Attorney Archie Jennings was there with his daughter Ariel, 14. And, like Trunk, Jennings said, "She ran. I walked."
Jennings was one who had signed the Memorial Wall. Both his parents, in two separate incidents were victims of gunfire. "My father was killed when I just got out of law school," Jennings said, "and my mother about seven years ago. Ariel lost her grandmother when she was seven.''
Celia Carroll hadn't known of Jennings' history when she saw his note on the board. "Oh, no wonder," she said. "He has opened his office to meetings for Mothers Against Guns. He has always helped us, and he never said a word."
Attorneys Frank Jackson, whose wife Toni was registering runners, chatted with Judith Bourne.
St. Croix Sen. Terrence Nelson was first in his age group. He told the gathering that he had found himself "looking down a double-barreled shotgun" on St. Croix last year when he helped break up a school shooting.
Sen. Louis P. Hill could be seen walking. "No more running, I've worn out my knees," he said, while keeping up still a pretty good clip. Roy Wattlington and Therese Hodge, St. Thomas Association of Roadrunners stalwarts were on hand to keep things running smoothly.
Later Sunday evening, Celia Carroll said a couple words over the phone as she was running off to church. "I am exhausted, but it is worth it. We will continue to raise the consciousness of people about guns in our community. There are so many mothers here, so many people in the community who have lost loved ones. We can no longer pretend it can't happen to us. We have to become part of the solution. None of this, you know," she said, "can be done without the strength of God."
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