September 23, 2005
The one who did not return

While Vincentian students who have benefited from higher education in Cuba can boast of a sound education and broad experience, while our country has undoubtedly gained in terms of human resources, it has come at a price.

Many do not know of the sacrifices endured by those students in an environment strange to them. Different food and cultural practices having to study without electricity, given the many power outrages, not to mention water shortages. In spite of these and many other problems, the human spirit triumphed and we have been able to welcome back our Cuban trained graduates. {{more}}

Not everyone triumphed though. There are a few who didn’t make it for one reason or another. Most of these have re-integrated into our society, some have pursued higher education in other lands and there are even one or two bitter ones, blaming Cuba and everyone else but themselves for their lack of success.

Unfortunately, there was one student who didn’t fit into either category. DeRomorne Phillips, the son of well-known hairdresser Janice Phillips, was the unlucky one. He made the supreme sacrifice, having been cruelly murdered on November 27, 1999, at the age of 27!

DeRomorne was in his first year of Civil Engineering but was stabbed by a Cuban miscreant at a student social function. His murderer was eventually sentenced to 12 years in prison for the offence, plus another 8 years for maliciously wounding another student, Dominican Fitzroy Pollard.

DeRomorne’s death was a grave shock to the entire Vincentian student contingent in Cuba and to the Caribbean students there as a whole. For he was a very likeable, sociable and jovial person, kindhearted with a reputation for sharing. In his own quiet way, he was emerging as a leader with his own hopes and dreams for his return home, not least being able to participate in bringing up his young son, Shamarr. All these were shattered that fatal night in Camaguey.

It is to the credit of the other students; especially those based in Camaguey that they were able to overcome this tragedy, to buckle back down to their studies and to succeed. For DeRomorne’s close companion Fidel Rose, it must have been particularly painful, since not only was he with DeRomorne at the time of the homicide, but he had the harrowing experience of having to accompany the dead body home for burial. Fidel was himself a Civil Engineering student who has just completed his studies and returned home.

It was a great loss for family, friends and our society as a whole. A fatherless son to be nurtured. Two grieving mothers, his own and his son’s, to be consoled. Yet time heals wounds and we must all move on, never for one moment though, must we forget THE ONE WHO DID NOT RETURN!