An educational forum will be held at the First Baptist Church of South Orange Tuesday night to help the community heal in the wake of the wreck that killed two young Maplewood residents and sent two more in the hospital.
Among the speakers will be members of the South Orange Police Department, Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, local therapists and the church’s pastor Rev. Dr. Terry Richardson, who put together the event in partnership with the Eternal Light Corporation.
“My focus has always been on the community,” said Dr. Richardson, who is in his 16th year at First Baptist. Churches, synagogues and other houses of worship, he said, must go beyond “the four walls of their institutions and collaborate with the community to help tackle issues that threaten the well-being of all the residents.”
Collaboration and organization, he said, are fundamental in healing a community after a tragedy.
Tuesday’s event will take place at the church, located on 103 Valley St. in South Orange from 6 to 8 p.m. Each speaker will address his or her area of expertise, be it law enforcement, substance abuse prevention or dealing with grief.
Grief counselors from the church will be present at the meeting to provide free service to family members and friends of the four victims: Maplewood residents Tamir Harry, 16, and Kervin Noel, 21, who died; and Tahsir Harry, 20, and Rodney Lovius, 21, who were hospitalized with severe injuries. The driver of the other car, Harrison Allen, 20, was also hospitalized and has been charged with vehicular homicide and aggravated assault while under the influence of alcohol.
One of the night's speakers, family therapist Nancy Kislin, will be talking
specifically to parents about how to discuss grief with their children.
“We can’t talk about [the victims of the crash]without the other part of the story,” Kislin said. “They were killed and they were injured right by their house because somebody chose to drink and drive. If there were just doing what they were doing and that man hadn’t been drinking and driving… they would still be here. You have to look at the bigger picture.”
Kislin said parents should try and make themselves available to their kids, so their kids feel they can be honest about what they or their friends are experiencing.
“We don’t want our kids to think they have the burden of keeping that secret,” she said, “be it drinking or drugs. It’s such a bigger issue.”
Kislin talked about how families experience tragedies together. They can work through anxiety and difficult times by understanding the needs of and having empathy for their family members.
“Acknowledge the grief and start to process the grief,” she said. “This happened because even good kids make tough choices. Something like this increases all of our anxiety. You might ask your kid 10 times whose house they’re going to and if will they be drinking there. I’m giving the parent permission [to do that] and I’m also giving the kids permissions to say, ‘My parent is annoying me.’ That’s okay because we’re all extra anxious right now.”
Kislin, who lives in Millburn, has a private practice in Chatham. In addition to the grief counselors from First Baptist Church, she will be available to discuss counseling with people after the forum.
“If the community need is there, we will provide,” she said.