, news editor, Adventist Review
Grief counselors and therapy dogs greeted schoolchildren returning to classes at Indianapolis Junior Academy on Monday, six days after their principal and two classmates were killed in a car crash that has dominated local headlines and saddened Seventh-day Adventist believers worldwide.
Principal Norris Ncube, a native of Zimbabwe who had led the Adventist Church-owned school in the U.S. state of Indiana for two years, died when a car plowed into his van as he drove his twin son and daughter and three other children to school on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 6.
Ncube was killed on the spot. His niece Malia Siziba, 5, died later that day in the hospital, and his 12-year-old son, Joshua, died two days later.
“This week has been a week of tragic events, and we know your children have been deeply saddened by the loss of their beloved principal Norris Ncube and his son, Joshua, and niece Malia,” Herb Wrate, education director for the Adventist Church’s Indiana Conference, said in a letter to parents.
“We are all part of the IJA family, and we ask God to give us strength and comfort at this time,” he said.
The school, which teaches 85 students from kindergarten through eighth grade in downtown Indianapolis, reopened Monday with a special convocation in its gymnasium. Parents were invited to bring their children to school and stay with them.
Certified counselors were on hand throughout day to talk with children, parents, and school staff as needed. The counselors were joined by two golden retriever therapy dogs, B-dawg and Rosebud.
They are “trained to work with children and give extra love,” Wrate said.
Students talked, cried, and prayed during the first day back at school, the Indianapolis Star newspaper reported. The dogs appeared to be a big hit, causing smiles and laughter.
Police are investigating why Jack Reed, 80, ran a red light and slammed into Ncube’s van. Reed’s family suspects a stroke. Reed is hospitalized in serious condition.
Ncube’s daughter, Jessica, also remained in the hospital in serious condition Monday, Fox58 television reported. The other two children in the car, a sixth and eighth grader, have been released from the hospital with broken bones and are recuperating at home.
Ncube’s wife, Busi, is grieving the deaths of her husband and son while trying to stay strong for her daughter, said acting principal Daniel Ortega, associate pastor of the Glendale Seventh-day Adventist Church, which is affiliated with the school.
“She is a strong woman,” he told the Indianapolis Star.
Funeral services are scheduled for Friday, according to RTV6, the local affiliate of ABC television.
The tragedy has tugged at the hearts of people worldwide. News media from New York to California have carried reports about the accident, and tens of thousands of Adventists have read a related article on the Adventist Review website, making it the most-read online story of the past week.
The media spotlight has also focused public attention on the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“Pastors at the affiliated church spoke to the children about death Monday morning. Members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church believe death involves going to sleep until the next coming of Jesus Christ,” the Indianapolis Star reported.
Harvey Kornegay, senior pastor of Glendale Seventh-day Adventist Church, told the newspaper: “We told them, ‘You know how you go to sleep, and the next thing you know, it’s morning?’ We said, ‘They have fallen asleep and Jesus will wake them up.’”