THE MATRIC farewell was a bittersweet occasion for pupils at Mondale High School.
Pupils celebrated the end of their school career last night while still mourning the death of three fellow pupils who died in a tragic car accident at the end of last month.
Kelly-Jade Ford, Leigh Anne Swail and Keenan Smith, all 18, died in a collision on Spine Road in Strandfontein on Saturday 24 November.
A fourth passenger and former Mondale High pupil, Nazan Klaasen (20), survived the crash.
Kelly-Jade’s father, Frederick Ford, says he was supposed to see his daughter off at 17:00 yesterday.
“Her best friend invited me to her matric farewell, but I could just not get myself to go. It has been a heartwrenching experience, but the support of family, friends and even strangers has been incredible,” he says.
Friends, family, fellow scholars, former Mondale High pupils and staff filled the school hall on Wednesday for the memorial service of what they say were “three bright lights”.
Family representatives and classmates spoke fondly of the crash victims, each highlighting that their smiles were the one thing they had in common.
A solemn atmosphere filled the hall as pupils filed into their seats and pictures of the three matric pupils flashed on two large screens at the front of the hall.
The sounds of a piano being played resonated through the hall as it began to fill.
Matrics sat at the front of the hall, wearing their blue-and-yellow matric jackets.
This year marked the 30th anniversary of the school.
Mondale High staffer Ms Petersen, who welcomed guests, said: “The year will not be remembered for the celebratory way in which it started, but rather the tragic way in which it has ended.”
Glen van Harte, the director of the Metro South Education District, says: “We have lost three bright lights and today we make sure that those three lights continue to shine.”
The hall which can accommodate about 1500 people, was filled to capacity; people even lined the sides of the building.
Kayla Fortune, who was in the same class as Smith, spoke fondly about her former classmate who always had a smile on his face.
“Keenan was not only a classmate, he was like a brother to all of us. He was good-looking, our very own Jacob from Twilight. His chucks and his skinnies never stayed behind. Sometimes he had a dry sense of humour and often made us laugh,” she recalls.
She says one of his favourite jokes to tell was “What curtain can’t see?”. To which he would respond “blinds”.
Fortune says Smith’s love for soccer and athletics brought him closer to staff and his peers. Smith was a youth member at his church and a leader to younger children.
Tarron de Klerk, who was in the same class as Ford and Swail, delivered a heart-rending speech about her former classmates.
She says they would often clash, demand their clothes back from one another and then burst out into laughter. “I knew Leigh since primary school. She would come over to my house to do my hair and back then she did a terrible job. But she had since perfected the styling of hair,” De Klerk adds.
The friend says Leigh loved baking and sharing her lunch while Kelly’s life revolved around her child.
“Kelly shared her personal experience of being a teenage mother with us and encouraged us to be safe and make better decisions. Her son Alex was her life.”
The school’s dance group also dedicated Rihanna’s song Diamonds in the Sky in honour of the trio’s memory.
Smith’s younger brother, Darren, brought many people to tears as he shared his fondest memories of his brother.
Darren says the two shared a double bunk, but that the top bunk which Keenan was supposed to sleep on was always empty.
“He would always want to share the bottom bunk with me. We shared everything and were best friends. He even died in my check shirt that he loved to wear,” he says.
Keenan’s brother says he looked up to his sibling who had written in his cupboard “I move with Christ. I move with speed”.