Rattlers grieve, pay homage to late peer

The candle light ceremony in honor of freshman Antoine C. Gordon was held Friday in Lee Hall. The vigil was postponed twice at Gordon’s parents’ request because of transportation issues. Gordon died Jan. 6 in a fatal car accident on his way back to school from winter break.

For students who have been mourning Gordon’s death, the vigil was a spiritual way to provide closure and help them move on.

The freshman class and the DC Metro club organized the ceremony. Rontel Batie, freshman class president, led the memorial service. DC Metro president Justin McCloud and vice presidents Barnell Tread and Nzinga Smith also played a major part in getting across to the students how much Gordon meant to them.

The Rev. Joseph Jones of the campus religious board opened the service with prayer. Freshman class representative Seth Lewis, 18, a freshman broadcast journalism student from Baltimore, Md., recited poetry.

Monique Wilkes, 18, a first-year business student from Jacksonville, sang an inspirational piece and poems were read by Rodger Brown, 18, a freshman business administration student, and Diamond Valdez, 19, a freshman nursing student, both from Washington D.C. The list of guest speakers and performers showed how loved Gordon was.

Freshman senator Quintin Haynes, 18, a political science student from Rockledge, was one of the coordinators of the vigil.

“The vigil was very successful in bringing FAMU together as a whole to mourn over the passing of a Rattler,” Haynes said. “Gordon’s family was very pleased and thankful for the hospitality the school provided.”

Smith was sad to lose a club member who was also close to her.

During the vigil, Smith spoke powerful words to the students of FAMU.

“Even though we lost someone dear, remember in actuality we gained an angel,” Smith said. “Gordon was a lively and dedicated member of the DC Metro Club; he was at every meeting with a big smile on his face, and never went unnoticed.”

Gordon’s friends were given a segment to speak and reminisce on past experiences with Gordon. Over 50 students stood to pay their respects and about 25 shared a wonderful or exciting memory they had with Gordon.

The FAMU office of counseling services was present to give tips on grief and stress. They provided brochures and flyers for coping.

Chelsea Watkins 18, a freshman political science student from Washington, D.C., said the memorial service changed her outlook on life.

“The memorial service made me realize the true meaning of the saying ‘life is too short,’ ” Watkins said. “When Antoine’s father spoke about ‘getting it right’ I was definitely affected. That part was the most influential to me. It’s all about choosing the right path in life and fulfilling everything you set out in doing. It’s all about a decision.”

The Gordon family hopes Antoine’s impact on FAMU students and staff was a positive one. Antoine’s father said that FAMU treated them like family.

“My son was perfect,” Gordon’s father said. “He always had a smile on his face and was very positive. For that reason I cannot be negative. Yes, I feel grief and sorrow, but this was God’s plan, and I have to stay strong for the family.”

The ceremony ended with parting words and a prayer from Dean of Student Affairs Henry L. Kirby and the lighting of candles. The candles were then blown out symbolizing the ending of a life.