Sherry Ann Lopez often relives the days from her daughter’s disappearance until she was found dead, for years ago, but this year it was especially poignant because of the news of Ashanti Riley.
Lopez’s daughter, 20-year-old Shannon Banfield, a Republic Bank employee, went missing on December 5, 2016 and her decomposing body was found on December 8 under boxes at IAM and Company on Charlotte Street in Port of Spain.
The pain of that loss was something she deals with every day, and the anniversary of Banfield’s death, December 5 to 8, is always worse. But this year, the fourth anniversary, was particularly distressing, she said in an interview on Saturday.
Eighteen-year-old Riley, a form five student of Aranguez North Secondary School, was last seen alive on November 29 when she left home to meet family, and her body was found on Friday morning in Santa Cruz.
“What happened with Ashanti just threw me right back to everything. It’s was like I was reliving everything that went on with me four years ago like it was yesterday. It was traumatic for me,” said Lopez.
She knows there is nothing she can say right not to comfort Riley’s mother, Candice Riley, but she hopes to contact her soon. She said the hardest part was starting to live after the funeral, and that was even harder for parents like them because of the process of the investigation like identifying the body and making statements.
“Right now she will be numb to everything. ‘This is a dream. This is not happening.’ But what I could help her through is how to start to live after, the new normal, to start coping.”
Lopez said reaching out to the mothers who go through similar circumstances as she is something she feels she needs to do. She does so as part of her role at the Shannon Banfield Foundation, which she and her family started in honour of her daughter.
She also talks to young people about trusting God but remaining vigilant because she does not want “anything to happen to anyone.” She advises them to put down their cell phones and pay attention to their surroundings, try to move in groups, and to let their parents know where they are going and what time they expect to be home, all for safety reasons.
She said she deals with the constant pain of Banfield’s death and although she finds moments of happiness in the little things in life, there is no real joy.
Her motivation to continue living is her 16-year-old son. She is even more protective of him now, so he does not have the freedoms Banfield had when she was younger. But, she said he was very understanding about it.
She no longer goes to therapy and instead depends on the support systems of friends, family, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and a routine to follow. She added that she purposefully blocks certain thoughts from her mind in order to survive.
“God gives you the grace and the strength every day. At the beginning, you don’t believe in Him and you’ll be upset with Him because you will ask, ‘Why did you allow this or that to happen?’ But as time passes, even as you have to struggle to get up every morning, you will learn to deal with things gracefully.”
A St Helena man Dale Seecharan has been charged with Shannon’s murder. He was committed to stand trial in 2018.