WARREN - "Losing a small, young loved one is a challenging and disturbing reality to face," said the Rev. Dr. Robert Stringer. ''We are left to question why and what if."
Stringer officiated the funeral service for Ramone Jasheen White, 15, at New Freedom Missionary Baptist Church on Tuesday.
White, a freshman at Warren G. Harding High School, passed away March 10 in a car accident on Niles Warren River Road, an extension of Pine Avenue S.E., that claimed the lives of five other Warren teens.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
The Rev. Dr. Robert L. Stringer officiates Tuesday during the funeral for Ramone J. White at New Freedom Missionary Baptist Church.
Family, friends and classmates packed into the church's sanctuary for the final funeral. Cars filled the parking lots of the church, the neighboring gas station and the adjacent Jefferson School. Extra chairs were pulled up from the basement to accommodate the plethora of mourners.
As the congregation joined hands inside the crowded church as a sign of unity, the Rev. Gerald Dowe led with an opening prayer.
"In His name, Lord, orchestrate to us, dear heavenly Father, the peace that does pass all understanding," Dowe said. "We need the Scriptures to come true for us today."
Attempting to make sense of the tragedy, the Rev. Garrick Matlock spoke on "the message from the wreckage." Matlock is pastor of Restoration Christian Ministries and a community liaison at Warren's Lincoln K-8 School.
He began with an anecdote about White at school.
"Ramone was the young gentleman in the hallway when he wasn't supposed to be in the hallway," Matlock said. "As he would turn around and he would see me coming, he'd go 'Oh hi, Mr. Matlock' and I'd go, 'Oh hi, Ramone, how you doing?'
''He would hug me and I'd go, 'Ramone where are you supposed to be?' 'Oh, I'm supposed to be over in this class.' I'd go, 'Ramone let's go ahead and get there.' He'd say, 'Oh, oh, by the way, Mr.Matlock, can you pick me up from church?' I said 'I'd be there, Ramone.'
''He always had something else to say."
Matlock connected the meaning of the victims' names to encourage the church. Others killed in the accident were Alexis Cayson, 19; Andrique Bennett, 14; Kirklan M. Behner, 15; Daylan Ray, 15; and Brandon A. Murray, 17.
According to Matlock, Kirklan means ''church;'' Alexis means ''protector of mankind;'' Daylan means ''little field;'' Brandon means ''fruitful hill;'' Andrique means ''one of a kind braveness;'' and Ramone means ''wise protector.''
"It's not just those individual names but it's when you put them all together," Matlock said. "It says, 'Church! God - who is the protector of mankind from the little field all the way to the fruitful hill - I am saying to you use my courage and my favor because it's your wise protection.' There's a message out of the wreckage!"
The service also included a rendition of "Take me to the King" by Napier Ramsey and a poem written by Charlene Blackwell. Blackwell said she wrote the poem after questioning God if he was satisfied with the deaths.
"I was asking God, 'You have all these people. Are you satisfied?'" Blackwell said. "And my immediate response was 'Are you?'"
Blackwell's poem urged parents to "fix the cracks in the foundation that we've laid" and to push for changes to be made in how they raise their children.
"I'm starting at home with my daughter and son," Blackwell recited. "And if I do my job - and I do it just right - when He calls me home, I'll hear Him say, 'Job well done' and it is then that I will be satisfied. Are you satisfied?"
Warren Mayor Doug Franklin expressed his condolences and piggybacked off of Blackwell's poem, saying that while he is not satisfied. He is encouraged by the response of the youth in the area.
"I want you to know, this mayor and our entire community is mourning with you. We're going to walk through this journey with you," Franklin said. "My challenge to you, is that we take this tragedy and we use it to springboard our community."