2016-09-08 / Opinion


‘Village’ Responds with Compassion

These are supposed to be happy times as our children, full of youthful anticipation, return to school while the summer-only crowd retreats. For the rest us, buoyed by the inherent peacefulness of Aquidneck Island at this most pleasant time of year, these are also supposed to be happy times.

Sadly, however, tragedies conquered our island as we headed into September, casting a pall over our village and pushing happiness offshore.

The sad news began on Aug. 26 when seven-month-old Thomas Riley Foster-McComas died unexpectedly. For his mother, Kaitlyn McComas, who had been told by doctors that she could not have children, baby Thomas was her “miracle” baby. They say that no mother should ever lose a child. But in this instance, Kaitlyn’s loss, given the circumstances, seems all the more hard to bear.

Then, just four days later a multi-car crash on West Main Road in Portsmouth, near Kings Grant Fellowship Church, badly injured brothers Daniel Acosta, 16, and Ty Babcock, 13, both of whom attend school in Portsmouth, and their father, Brian Babcock, 45. In this mishap, the Jaws of Life were needed to extricate the injured and a helicopter was summoned to speed the trip to the hospital.

All three remain hospitalized in intensive care.

The latest blow landed in Middletown– and, really, all of Aquidneck Island– on Monday, Sept. 5, when an early morning house fire at 566 East Main Road claimed the life of 7-year-old Ramon Arroyo, who had just started second grade at Forest Avenue School.

How does a community respond to these sad and horrific circumstances?

In these instances, to borrow from the ancient African proverb (as well as the title of Hillary Clinton’s well-regarded 1996 book) that intoned, “It takes a village to raise a child,” we can honestly– and proudly– declare that our island village has responded with incredible compassion and generosity.

In what was described as an unprecedented action, the Middletown Town Council voted to donate $2,500 toward funeral expenses for Ramon. In Newport, four city councilors have already gone on record in favor of a similar offering for the family. The council is expected to ratify that action at its next meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 14.

Meanwhile, evidence bloomed everywhere of an island’s compassion in the face of heartbreaking adversity.

A Newport This Week Facebook post about the Middletown councilors approving the Arroyo donation has more than 90 comments. For the teenage boys, their YouCaring site, also known as “Compassionate Crowdfunding,” has had more than 1,000 visitors and raised more than $4,500 in just a few days.

These social media numbers are staggering. And, while we of course continue to believe in good, solid print journalism, we also find it reassuring that this new media is a means to ease the pain that these awful events caused so many island families in our “village.”

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