Tears of sadness, bitter smiles through grief and precious memories of a Rattler filled the Perry Paige Auditorium on Wednesday as faculty, staff and students joined together to remember Jamila Ayana Byers.
The body of 21-year-old Byers and 22-year old Tallahassee Community College student, Bryan Keith Dyson, were found in a car parked near a Dumpster in the parking lot of the Prince Murat Motel on Sept. 14. Two days later, autopsy results concluded that the victims had died as the result of gunshot wounds. Investigators with the Tallahassee Police Department Homicide Assault Unit ruled last week that their deaths were homicides .
Students who were acquainted with Byers were shocked to learn about her sudden death.
“My mouth dropped open when I saw her picture on the flyers that were posted around campus for the memorial service,” said Shermetris Mckay, a 24-year-old psychology student from Bunnell.
Several faculty members from the College of Education were present at the memorial service and offered kind words about Byers, a senior English education student.
“She had a kind smile, and a bubbly personality,” said Dr. Leila Walker, Jamila’s academic advisor. “She was a beautiful precious flower that we will all miss.”
A close friend of Byers told those who attended the service that Byers would always remind people to value others and to tell cherished people that they were loved while they still had an opportunity to do so.
Byers’ mother, Vanessa Woodward Byers, the Miami-Dade FAMU alumni chapter president, wrote a heartfelt letter to the Capital Outlook newspaper that exemplified her sentiment towards her daughter and the incident that occurred.
“I would like for Jamila to be remembered as a truly sweet, kind person who liked people but loved animals,” she wrote. “God has given me the strength to weather this storm as I have many others in the past and will overcome in the future.”
Ratreisia Ferguson, a 22-year-old secondary English education graduate student from Miami, said she met Byers in 2000. “She was a person you would notice, be it her smile or her confident stance,” she said. “She would just stand out, she was just blessed.”
Pastor W.N. “Billy” Graham, of the St. John Primitive Baptist Church in Thomasville, hopes that students look beyond the surface of Byers’ death to learn lessons that will change their perspectives and values about life.
“They should realize how precious life is and realize that we shouldn’t make decisions by chances but by choices,” he said.
“They should understand that no matter how rough life gets there’s sunshine coming the next day and in the middle of the storm there’s a lesson to be learned,” said Graham who performed the opening and closing prayer as well as the invocation.
Funeral services for Jamila A. Byers will be held Friday at 11 a.m. at New Birth Baptist church in Miami Gardens.
If anyone has information concerning Byers and Dyson’s deaths, they are asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 850-891-4357.
Contact Danielle Lewis at Danielle_lewis515@yahoo.com