Gone…never forgotten

Published 9:20 am Tuesday, March 18, 2014

At the close of Friday’s memorial service, Amber Osborne, the mother of Zachary Stoyer, hugs Charita Cherry (facing camera), whose daughter, Angel, tragically lost her life in a March 6 house fire. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

At the close of Friday’s memorial service, Amber Osborne, the mother of Zachary Stoyer, hugs Charita Cherry (facing camera), whose daughter, Angel, tragically lost her life in a March 6 house fire. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

MURFREESBORO – Two mothers, grieving over the loss of their children, found comfort in each other’s arms here Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, students and staff at Hertford County Middle School were seeking comfort of their own…..still reeling over the deaths of three classmates in less than two months.

And in perhaps a sign of sorrow from a higher power, the HCMS gym was thrown into darkness less than two minutes into Friday’s memorial service held in honor of the late Angel Cherry and the late Zachary Stoyer. Exit doors were propped open to shed some light into the gym as the service continued without interruption. The power failure was due to an electrical problem off campus.

Cherry, a 13-year-old seventh grader at HCMS, tragically lost her life in a March 6 residential fire at her Mitchell Street home in Ahoskie. That blaze also claimed the life of her younger sister, Aaliyah, while critically injuring her father and eight-year-old brother.

Stoyer, also age 13 and a seventh grader at the school, stepped onto a live electrical wire downed during a single vehicle accident on January 11 along a stretch of NC 42 near Colerain in Bertie County. Zachery was among six passengers involved in the accident, but was the lone fatality.

“Today we come together to remember Zachary Stoyer and Angel Cherry, both whose smiles captivated us each day,” said Dr. Vatara Slade, HCMS Principal. “They brightened our days with their genuine sweet, sweet spirits.

“We are here today to support the families and friends of Zachery and Angel,” Slade continued. “We are also here to learn how to be more kind and supportive of each other every day.”

Slade also announced that the event would serve as the day where a tree of lights would be planted on the HCMS front lawn in memory of the two students who will be “forever nurtured by kindness and filled with our cherished memories.”

Rev. Paul Edwards of the Carpenter’s Shop Church in Ahoskie further explained the meaning behind the tree of lights.

“This tree of lights exemplifies our lives; as you think about Zachary and Angel, they left us too quickly, but God never promises us a certain amount of time here on Earth,” Edwards said.

Edwards said he could feel the pain in the hearts of the HCMS students over the loss of their classmates.

“You all have been through a rough time these last few months,” he observed. “But remember that this is just the beginning of life. God says that he will give you strength if you will call on him. Listen to your teachers, they are trying to help you deal with this unfortunate set of circumstances.”

Edwards praised the HCMS teachers, as well as Dr. Slade and Dr. Michael Perry, Superintendent of Hertford County Public Schools, for the great job they have performed, and continue to perform, in dealing with these two tragic events.

“I have seen the hands and the hearts of these teachers and leaders reaching out to you….they love you, they care for you; if you need emotional help, turn to them,” Edwards said.

He also reminded the students that even though Angel and Zachary were no longer present in this world, they are not lost.

“We don’t lose one another,” he stated. “When they leave this world, they go to another world, and if they love God, they are with him. They are still with you in your memories. These two young people have impacted the entire school system here in Hertford County.”

Rev. C. David Stackhouse, pastor of New Ahoskie Baptist Church, said he had searched his soul for the proper words to share with those assembled on this special day of memory.

“What do I say, what can I possibly say at a time such as this,” Stackhouse remarked. “I’ve been a pastor for 43 years and I have experienced many, many, many occasions over that period of time where I’ve stood and spoke during events such as this. Still, every time still feels like the first time….your heart mourns the loss of an adult or a child.

“But as long as you keep Angel alive in your heart, as long as you keep Zachary alive in your heart, they will always be alive,” he added.

One of Zachary’s classmates recalled their first meeting in the second grade, adding that Zach had changed his life forever after that time.

“He helped me get through things in my life that I don’t think I could have gotten through alone,” said the friend.

The seventh grade students, seated in the middle of the gym, rose and formed a large circle around a table bearing the photos of Angel and Zachary while two candles were lit. They, along with the entire assembly, joined in the singing of the children’s gospel song, “This Little Light of Mine.”

“This is our circle of strength here at Hertford County Middle School,” observed Dr. Slade.

“I’ve had the students here at Hertford County Middle School on my mind and in my heart all week,” said Dr. Perry in his remarks. “You have again responded with love and support to yet another crisis within our school system. It’s true that when something happens to one of our students, it happens to all of us.”

Perry emphasized that students are in school to learn, but those lessons are not always limited to what’s printed in a textbook.

“You are now going through one of the biggest and most important lessons of life……that in life there are ups and downs; there will be some good times, there will be some bad times,” he stressed. “The lesson of life to learn in a time like this is to treasure and place value on things in front of you right now because what is in front of you right now may be gone tomorrow. A huge part of your daily education is to learn how to value your friends and value your time.”

Also offering comments was Dennis Deloatch, current Hertford County Board of Education member and a former HCMS Principal.

“We have trouble understanding when a young person passes,” he remarked. “We don’t understand why because they have so much to live for. But all we know in our hearts is that they’re gone way too soon.

“On behalf of the Board of Education, we are grateful to you – the students and staff of Hertford County Middle School – for all that you have done to show love and support to these families,” Deloatch added. “I would encourage you to continue to keep these families in your prayers. And to you, the students, keep the memories of Angel and Zachary alive in your hearts….sitting next to them in class, playing with them in P.E. and riding with them on the bus; those are the things that will stick with you the most.”

Following a song by Wendy Liverman, the group moved outside where family members of Cherry and Stoyer shoveled dirt into a hole for the tree to be planted. Charita Cherry, the mother of Angel, and Amber Osborne, Zachary’s mom, each released a blue balloon in memory of their children, before finding comfort in each other’s warm embrace.


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal