Holy tears - Classmates mourn slain 11-year-old
It's been four days since masked gunmen aimed their guns at a group of men in the Fleet Street area of central Kingston last Thursday night, killing 11-year-old Taysha Hughes in their rampage.
Her death has ignited an outpouring of sentiments in support of her school and family, and scorn for gang and gun violence, as best said by one of her 6F classmates at Holy Family Primary School, that he wants justice for his slain friend.
"Sir, I am hurting; they killed my friend. I hate gunmen. I hate gangs, and I pray that police catch the killer. We want justice, but I'm glad Taysha is in heaven," the young man said.
On Monday, a group from the Child Development Agency - led by its regional director Robert Williams - visited the school to offer counselling.
Students cried, teachers, too. Some vented, but mostly listened, as Williams offered counsel on how to deal with their grief.
"We wanted to come to be here for the children who are hurting in a serious way because of the tragic murder of one of their schoolmates," Williams said.
"When grown men start murdering children with guns, it shows the level of cruelty and deprivation in our society. These young ones need security, reassurance and love. Too many have died at the hands of violent people," he said.
Three hundred and four children, ages 0-17 years, have been murdered in Jamaica over the last five years.
According to the school's principal, Christopher Wright, the Ministry of Education was making every effort to assist the school in its moment of grief.
"We are receiving immense assistance from the ministry, but I am still worried that our children are now feeling the hatred and violence that permeate the society. We remain strong, however, and with God's help will have to move on from this heinous crime," said Wright.
'Return if possible ... Class 6F misses you, Angel'
The chair Taysha Hughes would have last sat on and the desk she last used Thursday has been transformed into a temporary memorial, with flowers and written notes from her friends.
Her best friend told The Gleaner that Taysha's death has left an empty space in her heart. She said it was unbelievable news when she first heard it.
"I was shocked at first. I am still wondering if the news is true, because Angel, as Taysha was called, was such a nice girl. She was into sports and was fun-loving," she said.
Written notes were taped on to the wall directly behind Taysha's empty chair and even more sentimental messages were scribbled on the blackboard. One read: "Return if possible, peace and love - Class 6F misses you, Angel."
Taysha was killed last Friday when a group of men wearing masks attacked men in the Fleet Street area of central Kingston. One of the gunmen was also killed in the attack and three others injured as a gang feud over turf has erupted.