Friends, family and members of the community gathered Thursday afternoon for a vigil at the site of Tuesday night’s fatal wreck that killed two Maplewood residents and sent two others to the hospital in serious condition.
Led by Minister Thomas Ellis of Love from the Heart outreach ministry, the throng of more than 100 prayed, sang and reminisced about the four victims: Tamir Harry, 16, and Kervin Noel, 21, who died; and Rodney Lovius, 21, and Tamir Harry’s brother, Tahsir, 20, who remain in critical condition after having to be disentangled from the car by emergency workers, according to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.
“We want to come today to pray,” Ellis said, “more than anything, for healing; healing of the community, healing of the victims that are in the hospital. The families who lost their loved ones – through this incident they need strength. They’re going to need strength day by day, strength to endure.”
Members of the crowd were encouraged to speak up if they had words of prayer, consolation or remembrance for the victims.
“Any time we ever needed something from [Tamir] or Tahsir, they were there for us,” said Felisha George, a Columbia High School senior and resident of Essex Avenue. “It’s going to feel different, but I know that everybody on this block is going to pull together. We’re going to keep it together.”
“Tamir was a close friend of ours,” said Morolake Olawale, also a Columbia High School senior. “We all love him; we always will love him. Everybody here has at least one memory of him. He would always put a smile on your face.”
People lit candles near a telephone pole at the corner of Essex Avenue and South Fourth Street, the site of the deadly collision, on a sidewalk still littered with shattered glass, near a broken tree and twisted front porch railing.
Speaker after speaker offered condolences to both the victims, their families and the family of Harrison Allen, 20, who is accused to have been under the influence and speeding when his car struck the 2001 Nissan Sentra carrying the two Harrys, Noel and Lovius.
“I’m from Montclair and I know the Allen family,” Deidra McLaughlin said. “I don’t know Harrison, but his grandparents are members of my church and we are praying for them as well. I want prayers for everybody. My son Scott used to ball with Tamir.”
Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca called the wreck a “tragedy of unbelievable proportions” and promised to make the intersection a four-way stop, put up additional signage and look into installing speed bumps.
“I was here Tuesday night,” he said, “I saw what happened. Five lives were ruined that night. Two lives were taken away. Two others, hopefully we’ll see on the mend. One made a tragic mistake and will pay for it dearly. Tonight we are here to say the Township of Maplewood supports the families and will do whatever it takes to help.”
“We are going to try to make this safe,” DeLuca added. “The lessons here are that we have to all remember that when we get in those cars or are in the street, we have to respect others. That means wear seatbelts, respect the pedestrians that cross in these crosswalks. In this tragedy, let us remember that we are brothers and sisters, neighbors, and we look out for one another.”DeLuca, Ellis and other speakers underscored the maxim, "Drinking and driving don't mix," and urged the dozens of young people in attendance to remember this tragedy and never drive under the influence.