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Monday, February 10, 2014


Sgt Bremser, left and members of the HPD Traffic Division showing their respect as the funeral procession enters Spring Grove Cemetary on Main Street.

Whether you are a person of faith or not, I am sure many people were questioning God's will when a four year old child was recently killed in a tragic fire on Bedford Street. Chantay Drake, 4, was killed in the fire, her mother Susan Therrien  died a few days later from injuries sustained in the fire.

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

The Hartford Police Department stepped up to do their part in making the funeral procession a tribute to Chantay and her short life. Earlier in the week I had called Sergeant John Bremser of the Hartford Police Traffic Division and asked what the possibility was of getting an escort for the Funeral procession. Bremser's response was very similar to that of Frank Ahern when I asked him if he could handle the funeral arrangements. Bremser simply said "Consider it covered".

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


Anonymous said...

Kind of sad that Mayor Segarra couldn't attend the funeral. I hear the only Councilperson there was Wooden. No one from the Mayor's office could attend? I guess that is what happens when none of them live in the City, community means nothing

Kevin, to you and the others, thanks for making Hartford a better place through your efforts.

Leaders are made, not born

Anonymous said...

Much respect to HPD Traffic Division, that family will never forget.
Much respect to every honest dedicated HPD officer that gives their all every day, not an easy job and not an easy city to work in.

Alyssa said...

What a thoughtfully written blog posting, Kevin. Tears will fill the eyes of anyone who reads it. Hartford thanks you and all of the others you mentioned.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Kevin and thank you to HPD and the Aherns. It is too bad none of this was reported by the Courant.

Anonymous said...

Kevin, Looking at the picture of the HPD escort, this is what i felt, "who cares where these men where born and reside" The fact is, that their professionalism and compassion shown on that day is a testament to "WHAT" makes a great cop ,not "WHERE" a great cop comes from. Hope you agree and i'm pretty sure you would have duplicated all your heartfelt efforts even if "you" didnt live here.


Anonymous 12:01PM.

I agree. I encourage the hiring of City residents and I think the City should make their employees WANT to live here, not have to force them to live here. The officers in that picture are committed to the people of Hartford, I know Sgt. Bremser is.. Who else would ride a motorcycle in 14 degreee weather

Anonymous said...

Sgt. Bremser. What a great example of what a police supervisor should be.

Anonymous said...

Bremser better be studying hard, i hope he does well on the exam. I only say that because with any multiple choice city exam, morons and idiots always muddy the water. I hope good guys like bremser, cunningham, doyle, varkal, and some others( maybe cicero, maybe) score high to knock out racist steve kessler and the other miscreants that belong in 25 lorraine manor on prescription meds...i always enjoy working details with bremser. Logical direction.