Chamber Made Column-April 7, 2012

How a Region Recovers After Such a Terrible Tragedy

When I woke up the morning of March 26, little did I know that the Northeast Kingdom I knew would change forever. While driving to the chamber legislative breakfast, I heard on the radio that a woman had disappeared, but few details were known at that point. It was not until a shaken Kitty Toll, a legislator from Danville, announced to the crowd that Melissa Jenkins been abducted that it hit home, as it did to many that morning, that a family we knew and loved had been affected forever by a most sad and senseless tragedy.

In the days since Melissa Jenkins was slain, I have witnessed an outpouring of support from Vermonters, the nation and world that I have never seen the likes of before, even as a former newspaper reporter and editor. Media outlets throughout the world have all reported on how this wonderful woman, beloved mother, revered sister, daughter, relative, colleague and friend was taken from this earth so early, her little man left behind. Seasoned reporters, not known for emotion, broke up reporting this story, some wearing pink in her honor on the day of her memorial.

Even now, almost two weeks later, I cannot process a mind so sick that could commit a murder so heinous. As the crime details have been announced, I have personally struggled, as I know many of you have, on how we go on with the calm of our region so shattered. But as much as our entire region is grieving, the pain of her family must be unbearable, and we must protect them and maintain their privacy in the weeks and years to come.

My heart has swelled with pride to see how people have honored the memory of this incredible woman in the days since she was taken. Driving down Main Street last Friday, I was overcome with emotion, as many were, with the thousands of ribbons adorning the avenue. Everywhere we have turned in the past week, we have seen pink, whether it is on the backs of schoolchildren posing for a school picture, the ties of businessmen or the thousands of balloons, flying in the wind outside countless businesses throughout the Kingdom and state. 

The chamber feels a great sense of honor that we helped to establish the Melissa Jenkins Memorial Trust, which will directly benefit the son of Melissa Jenkins now and in the years to come. The chamber would like to extend its gratitude to attorney Edward Zuccaro and Richard Lyon, a CPA from A.M. Peisch, for serving as trustees of the trust, and the Passumpsic Savings Bank for hosting the account.This is the only trust fund that has been created for fund-raising and was established in cooperation with St. Johnsbury Academy, where Melissa worked, and Maple Grove Farms of Vermont, where her mother works. This is the sole trust fund that has been created for fund-raising and was established in cooperation with the Jenkins family; St. Johnsbury Academy, where Melissa worked, and Maple Grove Farms of Vermont, where her mother has worked for more than 40 years.

I would like to extend appreciation on their behalf for the many businesses and individuals that have offered their time, skills and money to put on events and efforts to benefit Ty through the fund. The outpouring of support has been nothing short of amazing.

I urge anyone affected by this terrible tragedy to read the beautiful piece, entitled “The New Normal,” written by St. Johnsbury Academy Headmaster Tom Lovett, delivered at Chapel this past Monday. You may go to www.stjacademy.org, and click on the “Headmasters Weekly Message: Our Academy.” It is a wonderfully crafted piece that may not only help people cope but heal after this unbelievably sad tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and all affected by Melissa’s death, as we celebrate the wonderful life of this extraordinary young woman.

(Darcie McCann is the executive director of the Northeast Kingdom Chamber.)

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