Beverly Beckham

A tragedy without blame

By Beverly Beckham
August 8, 2010

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A story: When I was 3 years old, we lived in the projects near Fresh Pond in Cambridge. One day, when my mother was resting, I let myself out the kitchen door and headed straight to the pond I’d been warned never to go near. I was in up to my waist by the time my father, still in his police uniform, stormed into the water and grabbed me.

Another story: When my children were young, we had an in-ground swimming pool. It was fenced in. And just like the swimming pool where 4-year-old twin girls Lindsey and Leslie Bonsu drowned last week in Brockton, it was fenced off from the rest of the yard, leaving a separate cordoned-off play area.

My older daughter was 9 when her sister was 4, just like the twin’s big sister, Jasmine. And I, just like their mother, allowed them to play out back alone. I trusted that the fence — and my constant warning, “Don’t go near the pool!’’ — were enough to keep them safe. Did my 9-year-old sometimes take her eyes off the 4-year-old to run inside for a cookie, a drink, to use the bathroom? Of course she did.

A 29-year-old husband and his young wife lost their two babies in a tragic, horrible accident. Many of the words in the news stories are loaded with blame. The parents were “resting.’’ The pool was “unkempt.’’ The husband “decided to join his wife in bed.’’

The couple is from Guyana. They live in Brockton. The implication is that they are shiftless and therefore the kids died.

Prudentia Bonsu, called Pru by her husband and friends, is not shiftless. She was resting because she’s a nurse’s aide and had worked the night shift. Her husband, Gyabba, is a nurse at New England Sinai Hospital in Stoughton, another tough job. While he made breakfast for the kids, his wife lay down. And when the kids went out to play, he joined her.

The unkempt pool is actually unused. Pools are expensive to maintain and even more expensive to fill in, especially on health care workers’ salaries. So the Bonsues did what they could do. They kept the gate to the pool area shut and locked.

Nine-year-old Jasmine, who left her twin sisters playing in the backyard while she went inside to use a computer, told police that she had never seen them try to get into the pool before. Police suspect that they squeezed through broken slats. How could anyone have anticipated this?

A child sits with his mother on their stoop waiting for his dad to come home from work. Every day they sit, and the instant the boy sees his father across the street, he leaps up and waves. Only one day, he darts across the street to him, and is struck by a car and killed. This happened in the 1940s. His name was David. And he was 4, too.

You watch your kids constantly. You watch them and you watch them and you watch them. And then for a minute you don’t.

The Bonsus immigrated from Guyana and worked so hard that they were able to buy a small house in a tree-lined neighborhood. They continue to work hard just to get by. It’s what young couples do.

Three years ago, one of the twins fell into the now unused pool. She was rescued. And revived. Is this why they stopped using the pool and started keeping it under lock and key?

Nancy O’Connell is a nurse who works with Gyabba. She says Gyabba is a “good person. He never says no to anyone. He gives 110 percent. He is a wonderful, wonderful man.’’

His pastor, Andrew Gardner, says the same thing about the family. That they’re “good,’’ “hard-working.’’

Jasmine Bonsu will always blame herself for her sisters’ deaths. And the parents will blame themselves. But blame helps no one. Two children died. Isn’t this tragedy enough?

Canton resident Beverly Beckham can be reached at