July 9, 2002
Honouring the life of baby GeminiBy LICIA CORBELLA -- Calgary Sun
I went back to Gemini and Domenic Brown's apartment building yesterday -- the one where 15-month-old Domenic's abandoned body was found to this city's horror last June 5.
I went there immediately following a simple but touching memorial service held in the honour of three-month-old Gemini, whose tiny and perfect body has never been found since her mother, Rie Fujii, tossed it into a dumpster.
I knocked on no less than 10 doors at 126 14 Ave. S.E. Even if music or the television could be heard inside, no one came to their doors to answer except one.
Coincidentally, it was the occupant of Gemini's apartment -- which I will not print to protect the current tenants -- that was opened. A young woman with children nattering contentedly in the background answered. I asked her if she knew what happened here last year. She said she did not. I didn't have the heart to tell her and I left.
So while the very occupant of the apartment where Gemini and Domenic and their 24-year-old mother -- who is awaiting sentencing for manslaughter in their deaths -- does not remember these children, yesterday some 50 Calgarians took the time out of their work day to remember them.
The memorial was organized by Ashid Bahl, the founder and president of For the Love of Children Society of Alberta.
"These children were abandoned in life, but today we are remembering them in death," he told those who gathered at Heritage Funeral Home, 1708 16 Ave. N.W.
There was a single flower arrangement decorated with a pink teddy bear at the front of the chapel. Beside the flowers was a picture of a smiling Domenic and a sleeping Gemini.
Calgary-Fort MLA Wayne Cao spoke of the pain and horror we all know must have filled these children's last days.
While Fujii left her children alone for 10 days in the small apartment to run off and have sex, drink and do drugs with friends, her children cried frantically for days on end for a mother who never came and to neighbours who heard, but chose not listen.
Both children died, it is believed, from dehydration and starvation and very likely broken hearts to boot. It is the agony of this reality that makes it almost impossible to think about their end for more than a few seconds at a time.
"I believe as a society ... we failed these two little children," said Cao. "All we can do is pray for their forgiveness."
But that is not all we can do. Cao intends to make a motion before the legislature to institute an official "meeting your neighbour week."
Whether that would have helped Fujii and therefore Domenic or Gemini is anyone's guess. But it is, alas, SOMETHING.
David Morris, a former bishop with the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, said despite her short life, Gemini has left us a legacy.
"I'm talking about a legacy that will grow and bring people together -- that we will increasingly help others -- especially children."
Dori Lemke wept throughout much of the service.
"The only thing that makes this bearable for me is I know that Domenic and Gemini are in a much better place now," she said.
Last May, Lemke's 12 year-old daughter Erika died following a two-year battle with cancer.
"We worked so hard for her to live, so it's just so very hard for me to contemplate that people didn't have any opportunity to help these children."
Before her daughter died, Lemke, with the help of Bahl and many others, helped fulfill Erika's dream of building the best wheelchair accessible playground anywhere so all children could play together regardless of their physical limitations. That park at 907 Burberry Walk S.W. "is now helping parents reach out to one another," acknowledges Lemke. "We need more of that."
I pondered that as I walked away from the young mom living in Fujii's old apartment and from all of those other doors that didn't open to a stranger's knock.
Licia Corbella, editor of the Calgary Sun, can be reached at 403-250-4129 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her columns appear Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
Letters to the editor should be sent to email@example.com.
Copyright © 2001, Sun Media Corporation / Netgraphe inc.