MASTIC POINT, North Andros – Elizabeth Saunders, of Mastic Point, still remembers the day her nephew, Darren Clarke, was born inside the bedroom of her family home 42 years ago.
Saunders, like many in North Andros, was grieving yesterday.
Her nephew, along with five other Andros natives, was killed in a tragic plane crash on Wednesday.
The Nassau Guardian confirmed the victims were Clarke, 42, the pilot; Margaret Adderley, 49, a mother of two; Valentino Cardinal Knowles, a father of two in his 30s; Carter Campbell, a father of one in his 50s; Desiree Russell and her daughter, Destinique Wilson, 10.
The small fishing community of Mastic Point, a coastal town, was in mourning and anxious.
When The Nassau Guardian visited Andros yesterday and spoke to relatives of the victims, some were hopeful for a miracle while others were beginning to accept the truth that their loved ones were gone.
Saunders said that Clarke’s dream was to be a pilot and that he started flying a little over a year ago.
“When he left (on Wednesday) I didn’t think anything of it,” she told The Nassau Guardian.
“I just thought that I would see Darren again that evening. He only eats seafood, and I fried up all this fish for him. I said, ‘Lord, before I go to church let me make sure cook his dinner’.
“His dinner is still there. His fish is still there.”
Saunders, who was leaning on the wall outside her front door, fought back tears. Her mother, Clarke’s grandmother, was screaming in the background.
“Lord, why?” she screamed. “Why my Darren? What am I supposed to do?”
Saunders paused and looked inside the home, holding her head down. Two little boys – Saunders’ nephews, who had not gone to school – were inside the living room sitting on a brown sofa. They looked scared.
Saunders said her mother and Darren were extremely close.
“We were all close,” she said.
“Darren is like my son. I remember the day when he was born. He was born right in this house. Right in here.
“I remember me and my niece trying to peep through the curtain because his mother was on the floor but the midwife kept running us. We were just trying to see him come into the world. So Darren was like my son.
“He was my nephew, but he was like my son. He will be missed. I loved him a lot, dearly.”
When asked if she was hopeful that her nephew and the other victims might still be alive, she replied, “I wish. I wish. Yes.
“I wish to know that, through last night, in all that cold and suffering, not only him but everybody else was okay. But if they found two bodies I don’t know about the rest. I don’t know if he will be alive, but we wish.”
Saunders paused and stared at the ground. Her mother was still sobbing and the little children still looked scared.
She said she will always remember Clarke’s smile.
Just a few steps from Saunders’ home, family members of Margaret Adderley were huddled inside waiting for confirmation.
They were waiting to hear from police, from investigators, from anybody.
Andrea Smith, Adderley’s sister-in-law, said she could not explain what the family was going through.
“I’ve never been through it,” she said.
“Everybody is just there. Everybody is in shock and just waiting for confirmation.”
Adderley and Smith grew up together and shared a lifetime together.
“I love her as a sister-in-law,” she said.
“We were in-laws but we lived like sisters.”
Adderley, a mother of two and a recent grandmother, was a custodial worker at Mastic Point Primary School.
The school, a two-minute drive from Adderley’s home, was filled with grieving students and staff.
The usual sound of cheerful children, strict administrators and chalk hitting blackboards was replaced with muffled cries, tears and songs.
Two members of the custodial staff, who couldn’t bring themselves to come inside, were in tears.
The students and teachers were at an assembly, where a few local pastors led them in songs of praise and hope.
“Jesus loves us all and always welcomes us back into our hearts,” one pastor said.
Students wept openly during the assembly.
Kimberly Rolle, principal at Mastic Point Primary School, was visibly shaken when she spoke to The Guardian.
She remembered Adderley as a worker who went above and beyond.
“A worker like that, wow,” she said with tears welling up in her eyes.
“A replacement? I don’t know if it’s possible. That Monday morning she said, ‘Mrs. Rolle I’m a grandmother now’.
“I said, ‘Oh you joined the grammy club?’
“So she said, ‘Is it possible I can have a day so I can go?’
“I said, ‘It’s no problem’.”
Rolle said there are no words to describe the tragedy.
“We have students in grade one and in grade five who are family of those who were tragically lost,” she said.
“It is just heart-wrenching for the school at this time.”
Michelle Bowleg, district superintendent of schools in North and Central Andros and the Berry Islands, asked Bahamians to pray for North Andros.
“We want the students of our school to know that to grieve and to cry is human, and that, at the end of the day, there is a savior above to comfort us,” she said.
“We just want the wider community to be with us.”
Police confirmed last night that the remains of those believed to be the victims were found in waters off Mastic Point yesterday.
Authorities said the remains will be transported to New Providence for DNA testing.
A search and rescue team was also able to discover some mangled debris from the aircraft as well as a flight log.
Education: College of The Bahamas, English