Sun | Jan 17, 2021

Teen bemoans loss of sentimental photos in fire

Published:Friday | June 19, 2020 | 12:17 AMKaren Oliver/Gleaner Intern
Asheika Townsend tries to comfort her mother, Venese Townsend, after fire destroyed their home at Rum Lane, Kingston, last month.
Asheika Townsend tries to comfort her mother, Venese Townsend, after fire destroyed their home at Rum Lane, Kingston, last month.

Watching your house being destroyed by fire is always a heart-wrenching experience, but losing family heirlooms like photographs or collector’s items can be just as painful.

That’s the experience of 18-year-old Asheika Townsend, an upper-sixth-form student at the Convent of Mercy Academy (Alpha), whose home was one of several that went up in flames on Rum Lane, downtown Kingston, on May 27. Thirty-four persons were left displaced.

Among her losses were photo albums.

“I lost 18 years of childhood memories,” she bemoaned.

Her most prized photograph of her taking her first step is gone forever.

“I will only have to remember it in my head from now on,” she said.

The details of the photo are vivid in her mind. She had glee on her face and was wearing a jeans suit, a white blouse, and several gold bangles, while her beaming father, who was holding on to her hand, was dressed in a red-and-yellow shirt. The photo was captured in front of a whatnot with pepper lights in the background.

Similarly, photos of her high-school graduation are all destroyed.

“My graduation pictures represented the financial and emotional struggles in high school and how I triumphed,” she explained, adding that she graduated with 11 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate subjects: six grade ones, four grade twos, and a grade three in mathematics. She subsequently obtained four Unit One Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) subjects.

Heartbreaking losses

As well as the loss of the photographs, leaving her heartbroken is the loss of a pair of tattered shoes that she wore in second form and was keeping as a souvenir.

“It represented the financial struggles I went through while going to school. The bottom of the shoes was completely gone, and I used a piece of cardboard as an insole.

I was saving them as a symbol of inspiration to show others who are going through financial challenges that they can step out because I, too, have taken that step,” she pointed out.

“I’m a very sentimental person. I don’t have things that have a lot of monetary value, so the things I have around me hold a lot of value to me. I use them to motivate me.”

Townsend, who represented Jamaica at the World Federation of United Nations Association International Model United Nations Conference in Manhattan earlier this year and last year, is trying to keep focused as she prepares for her Unit Two CAPE exams in July.

It’s hard, but I’ll get over it. Instead of crying, I’m using it to push me forward. If I can overcome this, I can overcome anything else,” she maintains.