Colourful, courageous, charming, creative and charismatic – all words used to describe Christina Edkins at a poignant ceremony to unveil a memorial stone at her former school.
Past and present students at Leasowes High School in Halesowen gathered round the engraved Yorkstone prominently placed at the entrance to the school for the emotional service yesterday afternoon.
They were joined by governors, teachers and Jason and Kathleen Edkins – the parents of Christina, who was stabbed to death after getting on a bus to go to school.
Headteacher Neil Shaw led the ceremony in front of the memorial stone which was transported from Yorkshire on Wednesday and is placed in a memorial garden decked with purple decorations – her favourite colour.
Speaking to the family, he said: “We know that the pain and grief endured by yourselves, by the student body, by the staff and governors has been palpable and I think that at times like this togetherness and support and love are what is needed to get through.
“The Leasowes community has tried its best to honour and respect Christina’s memory and I am immensely proud of the way the students have conducted themselves and stood firm in the face of this awful tragedy.
“The true test of a person is their response to difficulty and adversity and Leasowes students and staff have showed tremendous resilience and compassion and empathy.”
Before unveiling the stone, he said: “I hope it can be a reminder to us all that life sadly can be very short but we all have a duty to do our best for one another while we still have the gift that is life.
“Christina certainly tried to live life to the full and is an example to us all.”
Reverend Chris Siviter, of The Flame Community Church in Rowley Regis, said the stone conveyed messages of strength, stability, remembrance and joy.
Friend of Christina’s and former Leasowes High School student, Obri Gonzalez, said: “From up there she will be smiling away knowing so many people have gathered to keep memories alive that we shared with her.
“What a beautiful memorial.”
The school was badly hit by Christina’s death on March 7 – but it has responded, working heavily alongside the family, by carrying out a number of projects in tribute to her.
Among them was a special memorial award in memory of Christina which was given to Obri at the end-of-year awards in June.
It came with 16 miniatures which will be kept by the first 16 winners – 16 marking how old Christina was when she died.
A trophy was also made in Christina’s name for the school’s netball team, which she was part of until she died.
The memorial stone unveiled yesterday bore the engraving ‘Forever in the thoughts of friends, teachers and all who knew her. Greatly loved and sadly missed’.
Following its unveiling, a minute’s silence was impeccably observed by the hundreds of students at the school, from Year 7 to 11.
The stone was donated by Appleton Quarry in Yorkshire.
Phillip Simelane was detained to a secure psychiatric hospital indefinitely by a judge after admitting manslaughter at Birmingham Crown Court in October.
Last month, a memorial was also unveiled close to where Christina was killed in Hagley Road in Birmingham.
The stone is circular with a picture of Christina at the top and a dedication beneath.
Mr Shaw was among 30 people from Leasowes High School who also attended the unveiling.