God Needed a Gator
Posted July 4, 2011 4:20 pm
Graphic courtesy of Sean Williams
Sitting in the back of the Potter’s House Ministry Church in Mt. Oliver Pa. on Friday July 1, you would think you were at a celebration, not a funeral.
As people filled the church to the rafters, words of kindness were preached as everyone in attendance took time to remember Darrell Turner, 18, who’s life was taken far too quickly on June 23, in Durham N.C., after he was shot outside of a local Five Guys Restaurant.
Friends, family, and various other people came to speak on behalf of the fallen Gateway football star, who was set to start his senior year in the fall. The focus on this day was not on Turner’s budding football career or even the events that took his life that night in North Carolina, rather his commitment to god and his desire to live every day to its fullest.
You could sense the humility and faith that members of the Potter’s House Ministry shared when the Reverend asked for those in attendance to pray for the soul of Gabriel Gamez, Turner’s assailant. Expecting those in the crowd to shrug off thoughts of forgiveness at such a sad time, it turned out to be quite the opposite. It seemed as though members in the crowd erupted into songs of prayer almost in unison as the overall sense of love and community radiating from the small Mt. Oliver church created a moving experience for all.
Yet despite the gambit of emotions running through the church, there was an underlying feeling that no one could seem to shake……it wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Just a little over a week ago, Turner and members of the WPA Swag 7-on-7 football team were preparing to represent the state of Pennsylvania in an all-star tournament in Bradenton, Florida. The trip was meant to be about more than just football. Ayo Fapohunda, who organized the trip, had arranged for various college visits along the East Coast on the way down to Florida, giving members of the team a chance to visit schools they may never have been able to.
After visiting the University of Virginia for an unofficial school visit, the WPA Swag team traveled to North Carolina where it was set to visit Duke University the next morning.
After a long day of driving, members of the team decided to eat at a local Five Guys burger restaurant. Upon returning to their hotel, members of the team ran into Gamez who had just finished eating at an Outback Steakhouse across the street.
Witnesses say they remember something did not look right about Gamez, who began to start an argument with the kids. After words were exchanged, Gamez flashed a gun prompting the kids to immediately run back to their hotel.
As Turner and other members of the team ran for their lives, Gamez opened fire on the group, emptying 11 bullets from his gun. Three bullets struck Turner, two in the back and one in the leg, and another bullet struck Turner’s Gateway teammate Tommy Woodson in the leg as well.
Other kids said they could recall the sound of bullets flying past their heads in what was undoubtedly the scariest moment in their lives. As an ambulance took Turner away, members of the team tried to maintain the hope the Turner would survive.
When word came that Turner had passed away, it was as though a bomb had dropped on the spirits of all those involved with the WPA Swag team. The strength that other members of the team showed in the wake of what happened was most impressive. Many kids had pledged to remain strong for Turner’s family, and had promised to pass on Turner’s legacy. Most people remember Turner with fond memories. He was known as a caring soul who never let a smile leave his face. He was known as a leader on and off the football field, and the massive attendance at his funeral showed how much he truly meant to those who knew him.
Many of the same faces wrecked with terror the night Turner was murdered could be seen full of love and smiles as they remembered their friend who was laid to rest on Friday.
It was one of Turner’s friends who said it best; we may have lost a body, but we gained an angel.