BOOKMARK DAMAS SECTION
Marven was a budding speller, Maven a promising artist, and big brother Zach their protector.
In a memorial ceremony at Osceola Elementary School on Friday morning, the three school-age Damas children were recalled for their gifts and their potential, remembered by saddened teachers and students alike.
Future classes will know them, too. The boys' likenesses are etched into a light gray memorial bench that now rests in a flower garden by the school's front . Students, teachers and family members of the boys gathered for the dedication.
"We hope it gives your family comfort to know how much they were loved at Osceola and how much they loved school," Principal Jody Jordan told family members.
The boys were found slain with their mother, Guerline Damas, 32, and their two younger sisters, Morgan and Megan, inside their North Naples home in September 2009. The family father, Mesac Damas, 34, is charged with the killing and faces execution if convicted.
The school Parent Teacher Association decided to have a bench made, and with funding from local schools and businesses, they collected more than $5,000 in funds. The bench cost around $4,000, Jordan said, and the remainder of the money was used to help the family, she said.
A designer cut a silhouette of the three boys into the backrest. Zach holds the hands of his two brothers, one on each side.
With only a week to go in the school year, the deaths still seemed fresh on Friday. Students cried and hugged their teachers, who clutched tissues. Marven, 5, had just started kindergarten; Maven, 6, was in first grade; and Zach, 9, attended third grade.
Teachers read students' memories of their classmates.
When Marven spelled his name for the first time, he was named Chief of the Week and allowed to take home the class teddy bear. The class later named the bear Marven.
Maven wrote his goals on a piece of paper that he later decorated with his drawings.
"This year I think I will learn to count to 100," the card read. "I think I will also learn to use the computer."
The front of the school yearbook will be adorned with one of Maven's drawings, Jordan said.
Zach, the oldest, was the most distinctly remembered. He danced, he told knock-knock jokes and he was really good at kickball, students remembered.
His classmates wore black caps Friday, each tilted slightly to the side, Zach's trademark.
The ceremony ended with the school choir performing, and classes passed by the bench. The boys' teachers placed a white rose on the seat, and students returned to the building.
Inside Zach's former classroom, the weight of his loss could be read on the faces of his classmates. Still wearing their black caps, all were quiet and many were still crying. A boy put his arm around a girl. Teachers encouraged the children to get some water.
Jill Plunk, Zach's former teacher, remembered the days surrounding his death--the grief counselors, the tears and questions. Older children grasp death more firmly than younger children, she said. But like any child, they rebound with time.
On days like Friday, those emotions return to the surface. And that's not a bad thing, Jordan said.
"Today is a day to remember," she said.