In tragedy, students are reminded of life
By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer
By Eloise Aguiar
KAHUKU — Kahuku High & Intermediate School students yesterday were encouraged to lean on one another for friendship and support as they cope with the loss of four teenagers killed in a pair of crashes on the same day two weeks ago.
Remembered during a memorial assembly at the school were Benson Kauvaka, 16, Pepe Naupoto, 15, Alithia Ah Nee, 16, and Summer Mau, 19.
Naupoto and Ah Nee died after the vehicle Naupoto was driving failed to negotiate a turn and hit a utility pole in Hau'ula at 4:20 a.m. Aug. 19. On the same day, about 19 hours later, a 21-year-old-woman plowed into a group of people holding a vigil at the site of the first crash, killing Kauvaka and Mau.
Michelle Yu, police spokeswomen, said yesterday no arrest had been made in that case.
The accidents stunned communities up and down the Windward Coast.
The assembly yesterday was the first public memorial for all four teenagers.
Kingsley Ah You, a Kahuku alumni, former Kahuku teacher and community leader, said it was a time for people to "re-evaluate our lives and strive to move ahead and be the best that we can be."
Students filled the stands at the school's football field, facing signs that included the names of the accident victims and sentiments such as, "Remember Me" and "Rest In Peace."
Surviving family members attending the memorial assembly were greeted with lei.
Elizabeth Kammerer, the choir teacher, opened the services with the song "Amazing Grace." Students, led by members of the football team, also sang Bob Marley's "One Love One Heart."
Walter Santiago, an assistant coach for the football team and area pastor, encouraged students to cherish their friendships and remember that family means no one gets left behind.
"Kahuku one love, one heart," Santiago concluded. "Let's stay together. Why? Because you'll feel all right."
As part of the healing process, each student will receive a "Remember Me" key chain kit. It is intended to serve as a reminder of the consequences of behavior, said Nalani Brown, project developer and 2006 Kahuku graduate.
The kit comes with seven colored beads, twine and a card in which students will enter seven names. The card reads: "Before I make any destructive decisions, I need to remember these people love me and want me to live."
"It's a memorial for those who passed away, but more importantly for those who are alive now," Brown said.
School principal Lisa DeLong continued with the unity theme, stressing that all students are part of the Kahuku school family, and noted that on many occasions the teens have celebrated together the accomplishments of the school.
"Two weeks ago, we came together again to mourn the loss of four loved ones," DeLong said. "It was a difficult time for many, but it pulled us together as a school, and we will be stronger for these experiences."
She challenged students to reach outside their comfort zone and make friends with students who live in neighboring towns and teens who may come from different cultural backgrounds.
Nycolus Kapu, 16, and a cousin of Ah Nee, said he appreciated that the school held the assembly.
"We're still trying to get over it," Kapu said. "So, it was a really nice thing to do."
Josselyn Kahana and Stephanie Salts, both 14, wrote a poem called "Tomorrow Is Not Promised to You."
It read: "Take the time to say I'm sorry, please forgive me, thank you or it's OK and if tomorrow never comes, You'll have no regrets about today."
The girls said they wrote the poem because they have regrets about not telling the teens how much they cared about them.
Nai Fotu, 17, said the assembly gave him a chance to meet the family of his friends that passed.
"By doing this and bringing the family is also good because they see that they have a lot of friends here," Fotu said.
Reach Eloise Aguiar at firstname.lastname@example.org.