Mourners gathered yesterday in the District and in Pennsylvania to honor the lives of Pascal Emile Charlot and Dean Harold Meyers, bound tragically in death as two of the nine victims felled by the Washington area sniper.
At Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Northwest Washington, where 1,000 people attended the funeral mass for Charlot, the service began with a commemoration of all nine. Two others, whose identities have been withheld by authorities, were wounded by the sniper but survived.
"We come together today to remember the sixth victim .. . but members of Mr. Charlot's family will light nine candles to remember the nine persons killed in the past three weeks," said the Rev. Stephen Carter, the pastor of Sacred Heart.
The first white liturgical candle was lit, and the sad roll call began:
"James Martin, killed Oct. 2. James 'Sonny' Buchanan, killed Oct. 3. Premkumar Walekar, killed Oct. 3. Sarah Ramos, killed Oct. 3. Lori Lewis Rivera, killed Oct. 3. Pascal Charlot, killed Oct. 3. Dean Harold Meyers, killed Oct. 9. Kenneth Harold Bridges, killed Oct. 11. Linda Franklin, killed Oct. 14."
And at Pottstown Coventry Church of the Brethren, 30 miles west of Philadelphia, where nearly 200 people, including Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, attended Meyers's funeral, the pastor ended the service on a hopeful, spiritual note.
"What happened here was evil," said Sandy Christophel. "We see towers collapse, and that's the face of evil. But God didn't bring special protection even to his own son."
He paused. "Do you think darkness will triumph?"
The room was quiet. He answered for the congregation: "No."
Charlot, 72, who emigrated to Washington from Haiti in 1964, was described as a pioneer in the local Haitian community. He was, said the Rev. Andre Pierre, director of Haitian Ministry for the Archdiocese of Washington and the main celebrant of Charlot's funeral mass, "someone who cared for us. He was so at the center of his family life."
The service -- in French, English and Creole -- was attended by the large extended Charlot family, from the Washington area, along the Eastern Seaboard and the Caribbean; friends and several public officials: Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) and D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4).
It was in his role as caregiver that Charlot was last seen before he was shot in the neck at 9:20 p.m. on Oct. 3. He was standing on the corner of Georgia Avenue and Kalmia Street NW, one block from the Montgomery County line.
About an hour before, he had cooked supper for his wife, Doriel Allen Charlot, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's about two years ago and for whom he was the sole caretaker. He took her meal to her room, said stepson Lloyd Allen, who had dropped by that night, and at about 8:10 p.m., said good-bye to her and walked out the door.
What he was doing 2.8 miles north of his red brick rowhouse in Petworth remains a mystery to Allen and to Pascal's five adult children, who live in Silver Spring, New York City, Ottawa and Port-au-Prince.
"I don't know if he went to fill a prescription for my mother or why he would go so far up to do that," Allen said. "He was just at the wrong place at the wrong time."
A tall, strapping man with a wide, warm smile, Charlot was also portrayed as a prankster who loved to make people laugh. He was a romantic, too, taking his ailing wife out to dinner last month for her 78th birthday and giving her a bouquet of red roses. He was a skilled carpenter who remodeled houses until he retired, but kept a hand in his trade by working on small rehab projects for neighbors and friends.
"It was always 'Pay me what you think it's worth,' " recalled Allen. "He never gave them a price."
He was, indeed, as Pierre said, at the center of his five children's lives.
Herve Charlot, 42, last saw his father in early September during a week-long visit from Port-au-Prince.
"We were talking about how I'm going to build my life," said Charlot, a part-time professor of accounting and also a financial consultant in Haiti. And they spoke, as they often did, about Herve moving to the United States to seek better economic opportunities and about Pascal going back to Haiti to visit, something he did only once in the 38 years he lived here.
Herve Charlot reminded his father that he was in the process of building his house in Haiti. "I told him I'm going to make an entire room for you for when you come back," he said. "Maybe I could get him to come stay for a month."
But that was wishful thinking. Herve Charlot said his father missed Haiti. "But he was the type of guy who was connected to the U.S."
Charlot's daughter, Myrtha Cinada, 38, who spoke to her father by telephone almost daily, entertained him and his wife on Sundays with traditional Haitian delicacies that he loved. Four days before Charlot was killed, they feasted on baked salmon, white rice, pois (green peas and lima beans) and salad at Cinada's Silver Spring home. He didn't leave without giving each of her three children some money "for your mom to buy you something," she recalled.
"I will miss him." Cinada said. "That's a big hole in my life that will never be filled by anyone else."
In Pennsylvania, Meyers was remembered as the "humble, gentle and quiet" uncle to nine grown children; the decorated Vietnam veteran; the 53-year-old Gaithersburg man who "always remembered everyone's birthday" and who, at 8:18 p.m. Oct. 10, became the sniper's seventh fatality. He had finished work late and was pumping gas at a Sunoco Station near Manassas, getting ready for his commute home to Montgomery County.
He was supposed to be on the Appalachian trail yesterday, hiking and camping with friends. Instead, his friends were attending his funeral. That stark fact, along with a slide show of pictures that preceded the funeral service -- shots that showed Meyers canoeing, fishing, playing softball, attending ball games at Fenway Park, drinking Budweisers and on vacation in the rugged West -- prompted Meyers's pastor from Virginia, Jeff Carter, to ask:
"Why? Why did someone filled with so much life have to die?"
Carter answered his own question. "Dean was filled with far too much life to be remembered by his death."
The scene at the church vibrantly celebrated Meyers's life. Near the church's front door were Meyers's mint-condition Corvette and his white Isuzu Trooper, complete with a green canoe tied upside down on top and a 10-speed bike in the back. The church basement was decorated with posters, pictures and memorabilia from Meyers's life. His uniform from the Vietnam War hung on the wall near his golf clubs, his baseball hats and his softball mitt.
Meyers's years in Vietnam, where he served as sergeant in the Army, troubled him. A war wound nearly ruined his use of one of his arms, but after months of physical therapy, he was able to play sports. He could never play the piano again. In April 1972 he wrote an essay about the night he and his fellow soldiers were attacked: "Our squad leader angrily called for assistance and a Medevac chopper. 'One killed and two wounded' -- the words sounded so unreal. The firing had lasted about twenty seconds. My dreams of home faded. I had nine months to go."
In May 1972, nearly a year after he returned from Vietnam, he wrote another essay on the American dream. It so personified him, his family said, that it was included in the funeral program.
"The American Dream has not soured over the years," Meyers wrote. "Perhaps, we have a distorted view of our past history, believing that at one time our nation was virtuous and now is corrupt. . . . How can we forget we were once a nation under the siege of civil war . . . once we warred with Spain and Mexico . . . once we condoned the buying and selling of a human life? Where was the American dream during those dark years? No, we have not fallen, but rather are rising."