People who never knew the family have shown support; it has made a difference.
Dozens of condolence cards, written in the wavering, blocky print of elementary-school-age hands, cover the table and mantle at the home of Ciana Matthews, whose 7-year-old daughter Kymora Christian was killed when a car struck her Oct. 7 as she waited for her school bus.
Reading the cards from Kymora’s schoolmates, Matthews says, brings her some relief, as does watching the videos Kymora liked to take of herself with her iPad — singing, dancing, or narrating pretend play with her dolls.
“Kymora was just a very happy kid,” Matthews said. “She was very creative, she was very intelligent, she was very intuitive. She was always smiling, she was always happy, she just loved life. ... She always had a smile on her face, and she just brought joy.”
The little girl loved reading and being read to, going to school and church, drawing, swimming and dancing, and using objects she found around the house to create “little gifts” for people she knew.
“She’s one of those (children) where if you had a box, she’s like, ‘OK, can I have that box so I can make a doll house?’” Matthews said.
"Kymora was just a very happy kid. ... She always had a smile on her face, and she just brought joy."
— Ciana Matthews
Kymora wanted to be a nurse, just like her mother.
At her Palm Coast home, where she lived with her mother and stepfather, Earl Matthews Jr., Kymora doted on her 2-year-old brother, Karmelo Matthews. On weekends, she visited her father, Jamar Christian, and brothers Xavier and Javon Christian, at their home in Orlando, swimming in their backyard pool.
“That was her favorite thing. She loved swimming, loved the water,” her mother said.
Community comes together
The cards from Kymora’s schoolmates at Wadsworth, along with pictures they sent on construction paper and two door-sized rolls of yellow paper emblazoned with messages of support or remembrance, were just one way the community reached out to the family after Kymora’s death.
“The outpouring of support, it’s just been — words can’t describe just how generous and caring,” Matthews said. “Most of the people, they don’t even know us, but they’ve gravitated to us. … It’s been tremendous, the support system in the community. It’s strangers, just people leaving cards out, putting them in our mailbox.”
Local residents constructed a makeshift memorial, now removed, at the site of Kymora’s death. Two local restaurants — Chick-fil-A and the Olive Garden — donated food for the family.
Pushing for safety
Matthews hadn’t signed the petition on safer streets yet, but she planned to, she said.
“I support it 100%,” she said. “(Kymora’s death) wasn’t in vain. Now, it’s serious: You need to mark this area clearly.”
Matthews said the area needs signs reminding drivers to slow down, and suggested “marking the area, with speed bumps, or just lines: ‘This is where the kids are going to cross.’ Just some kind of reminder — ‘children at play,’ or something to let people know, this is where kids are.”
“(Kymora’s death) wasn’t in vain. Now, it’s serious: You need to mark this area clearly. ... Something to let people know, this is where kids are.”
The city of Palm Coast and the Flagler County school district have formed a staff group to investigate ways to make bus stops safer.
Matthews said that morning had started like any other. She’d gotten home in the morning from her night shift as a nurse. Her sister, 25-year-old April Emerick, who lives with the family, had gotten Kymora ready for school, taking a video of Kymora singing just minutes before the car struck her.
“It was a perfect storm, in a sense,” Matthews said. “We just did everything like normal. Everything that we usually did. We had a system. It wasn’t like she just wandered down the road by herself or anything … it was just a freak accident, and fate.”
Matthews had gone to bed when Kymora’s friend’s mother ran up to the house saying Kymora had been struck by a car, Matthews said.
“I jumped out of my bed, with a night gown, no shoes, and I just ran … but in your mind, you never think — I’m just running out, barefoot, from here to there.”
When she saw Kymora, Matthews said, she knew she would not live.
“I stayed there with her,” Matthews said. “I was there.”
Since Kymora died, her 2-year-old brother, Karmelo, hasn’t asked about her as much as Ciana Matthews thought he might.
“He’s not sad; he’s not acting out of character. He’s been extra loving. We feel like he knows that she’s OK and she’s with him,” Matthews said. “We’re Christian believers, and we believe that she is in heaven, and she’s smiling down on us.”