Sgt Bremser, left and members of the HPD Traffic Division showing their respect as the funeral procession enters Spring Grove Cemetary on Main Street.
I find it hard to understand how a four year old can be taken in such a violent and tragic way. But after seeing the outpouring of concern and caring for Chantay Drake, it does become a little clearer that the opportunity for positive can come out of this tragic death.
I have written about some of this already, but parts of it just seem to need repeating so that everyone understands that Hartford does have compassion and cares for each other. This was all very evident after several recent events. Shortly after Chantay's death, the Milner School on Vine Street showed an outpouring of their love for Chantay, who along with her sister Kayla were both students at Milner. Over a hundred people gathered outside Milner for a vigil in subfreezing temperatures to start the mourning process.
Speeches and prayers helped to start the healing process for those who attended. The following Saturday, Rev. Henry Brown held a street vigil in front of the scene of the fire on Bedford Street. It was a somber scene, looking at all of the fire debris surrounding the building after it had been shoveled out of the windows by fire inspectors.
It was also extremely eerie to look at the barred windows and not being able to comprehend the terror that those inside must have felt as the fire grew inside before taking their lives and causing the injuries that eventually took Suzanne's life. The feeling of helplessness by firefighters arriving on the scene , seeing a fire victim trapped behind the bars must also take a toll.
The funeral for Chantay was a fitting tribute to one of Heaven's newest angels. It took some work, but Chantay was eventually brought back to Hartford, courtesy of the Ahern Funeral Home, and on Saturday she was laid to rest in a very heartwarming and respectful ceremony. I was at the Funeral Home early Saturday morning at the start of another cold and icy morning.
A flower arrangement from Chantay's classmates at Milner School
On Saturday morning, Bremser and his officers arrived at about 8:15am, two black Tahoe's and two Police Harley Davidson motorcycles. No easy task for motor officers in 14 degree weather, but none the less, they did it. After carrying the small white casket and placing it in the polished black hearse, surrounded by flowers and teddy bears, the procession was off and headed toward the Liberty Christian Center on Vine Street.
I don't there is anything stronger than the statement made by a funeral procession with a couple of roaring police Harley's in the lead. If you have never seen HPD handle a funeral procession, it is like a carefully orchestrated ballet act. With the Harley's in the lead and a black Tahoe taking up the rear, other vehicles leapfrog along the route clearing intersections on the route for the procession to pass through.
After arriving at the Liberty Christian Center, pallbearers carried the small casket inside for Chantay's calling hours. I had never met Chantay but I had seen pictures of her and her big smile with her front teeth missing as she lost her baby teeth . I was not expecting an open casket and was surprised when the flowers were brought in and the casket was opened for viewing. I mentioned before that Chantay was Heaven's newest angel.
I couldn't help thinking that as I saw her in a beautiful baby blue party dress with sequins on it and her silver colored slippers and white knee high socks. I have never been to a wake or funeral for a child, and I'll admit this was not easy. She looked so peaceful, but I kept thinking "How could God do this?". She was so innocent, so peaceful.
As I sat there watching members of the community file in and pay their respects, I couldn't help but think that there was already good coming out of Chantay's terrible death.People such as Sergeant Bremser and Frank Ahern were already showing everyone that Hartford is a good City with good people. Her school community at Milner was probably already strengthened and forming tighter bonds to the community. There might even be some more long term effects , such as hopefully legislation for bars on windows to have to be able to open from the inside during a fire to allow escape from an inferno.
It is probably not a wise choice to question God's will, but if nothing else, the last week and the outpouring of love from the community helped make it a little clearer, at least for me.
Thank you to everyone who helped with that A sincere thank you again to Frank Ahern and the Ahern Family, Sgt. Bremser of HPD, Andrea Comer, Marta Bentham , State Representative Doug McCrory, Council President Shawn Wooden and his colleagues at Day Pitney and I know I am probably leaving someone out and I apologize in advance.
Chantay's death is not in vain, she has helped to strengthen our community through her tragic death. May she now rest in peace in Heaven in the arms of her mother