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Slain Photojournalist Luke Somers’ Deep Connection to Jamaica

Luke Somers in Yemen, wearing a TrenchTown Reading Centre T-shirt, shortly before being captured. Photo courtesy the TrenchTown Reading Centre, used with permission.

Luke Somers in Yemen, wearing a TrenchTown Reading Centre T-shirt, shortly before being captured. Photo courtesy the TrenchTown Reading Centre, used with permission.

As friends and colleagues mourn the late Luke Somers, the American photojournalist killed by al-Qaida in Yemen last week during a failed hostage rescue attempt by the United States, one tribute has come in from an unlikely region — the Caribbean.

Jamaica-based Petchary's Blog posted a warm and sensitive tribute to the man they knew, while acknowledging that South-African teacher Pierre Korkie was also killed by al-Qaida operatives during the raid.

The blogger remembered Somers fondly:

We in Jamaica knew Luke Somers. He was a volunteer at the Trench Town Reading Centre in the summer of 2010. He took over the Grade Three class at the Centre and focused on teaching them creative writing. The children loved him (especially the boys, who thought he was cool). The community loved him; he embraced them and they embraced him back.

Luke Somers with a class at Jamaica's TremchTown Reading Centre. Photo courtesy the centre, used with permission.

Luke Somers with a class at Jamaica's TremchTown Reading Centre. Photo courtesy the centre, used with permission.

Somers, much like he did in Yemen, connected deeply with the people he met in Jamaica. He kept in touch with the Trench Town Reading Centre’s director, Roslyn Ellison, but despite his best intentions, did not return to Jamaica before his posting to Yemen.

The post continued:

Needless to say, the community of First Street is grieving […] Luke was kind and generous. Everyone loved him. What more is there to say?

Somers taking a lunch break with some of the kids from the TrenchTown Reading Centre. Photo courtesy the centre, used with permission.

Somers taking a lunch break with some of the kids from the TrenchTown Reading Centre. Photo courtesy the centre, used with permission.

Condolences and tributes also poured in on the Trench Town Reading Centre's Facebook page. The centre's director, Roslyn Ellison, in remembering Somers, said via email:

[His] death was a very sad loss for us all [in] Jamaica. He was a wonderful, caring young man of action. Luke visited several times and volunteered at the TrenchTown Reading Centre, on First Street, during the summer of 2010. He helped bring our Summer School to life. Luke chose to live in the community, on the same street as the centre, rather than coming and going from this challenged inner city area. [He] quickly became an integral part of life in the area and was fully engaged with the children and people.

Everyone is terribly upset and shocked. Trench Town has a global perception of being an incredibly violent place. Yet the people there are very distressed that such a thing could happen to someone they know. We were looking forward to seeing him again as he planned to return. Sadly this is not to be. Luke’s life was short but he lived to the fullest and contributed much.

Owen Blakka Ellis, who also knew Somers, posted:

Rest in Peace and Rise in Power Luke! Your spirit and your good works live on.

Luke Somers will be remembered as a “wonderfully kind young man” whose work touched people in ways that cannot be measured.

  • I am so angry that I can’t see straight. I can’t say what I really want to say about the animals that killed Luke Somers!

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