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By Clare BruceMonday 3 Feb 2020
The mother of three children killed in a horrific road crash at Oatlands on Saturday night says she forgives the driver involved, and “cannot hate him”—and has asked the community to pray for her family.
Leila Geagea Abdallah is mother to 13-year-old Antony, 12-year-old Angelina and 9-year-old Sienna, who all lost their lives when a vehicle ran onto the footpath and ploughed into them as they were walking along outside Oatlands Golf Club, just before 8pm on Saturday evening. Their second cousin, 11-year-old Veronique Sakr, was also killed, while other siblings were injured in the incident, including Charbel Sakr who was in a coma.
The Abdallah and Sakr families are actively involved in the Our Lady of Lebanon church, a Maronite Catholic Church at Harris Park near Parramatta. In an interview, Leila echoed her husband Danny’s belief that the children they’ve lost – three of their six – are now in heaven: “I am sad, I am heartbroken, but I am at peace because my kids are in a better place,” she said.
Leila said her children were very spiritual and loved God.
“My kids had strong faith,” she said. “The day of the incident my son was at the church, praying his Rosary… my daughter was praying with my son in the car…. I can tell you some awesome stories about my kids.
“We try to focus on the spiritual side more than anything. We try to teach them to pray the Rosary, to read their Bible, to live their faith, to be good people in life, and to show God’s face through them.”
Holding a set of rosary beads, Leila shared about her faith, urged the gathered media to think of their own mortality, and said returning to the scene of the accident was like “walking the Stations of the Cross” – a Catholic devotion practice that follows the key moments leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion.
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She spoke of her disbelief that three of her children are gone.
“To be fully honest with you, it feels very unreal,” she said. “I don’t feel it’s true, I feel that they are still with me, I’m still waiting for them to come home… Whenever someone needed anything, you’d see all of them around each other, cheering each other up, lifting each other.”
She said while she forgives the vehicle’s driver, alleged to have been drunk-driving, she also wants a fair outcome from the judicial process.
“I think in my heart I forgive him, but I want the court to be fair… I’m not going to hate… that’s not who we are.”
“I think in my heart I forgive him, but I want the court to be fair, right? It’s all about fairness. So I’m not gonna hate him because that’s not who we are. And that’s not what our religion tells us. I forgive him, but I want it to be fair. I feel like I need [people] as much as they can to pray for us.”
In an interview, the children’s father Danny explained that he had let the children take a short walk down the street together as a group, to “give them a little bit of independence”, and told them to stay together.
“I’m numb. That’s how I feel at the moment,” he said.” I just want to say, please, drivers, be careful, these kids were walking innocently, enjoying each others’ company, and this morning I woke up and I’ve lost three kids.”
Danny described himself as a ‘full time father, part time worker’ who always put his children first. He said his son loved basketball and had played his game that day in memory of the deceased basketball hero Kobe Bryant. He described his daughter Angelina as his “little helper” who always “had his back,” and Sienna as his “little diva, little actress”.
On Monday morning at Santa Sabina College in Strathfield, where Veronique Sakr was a student, students and teachers gathered to pray for Veronique’s loved ones in their loss, and laid flowers in her memory. In a Facebook post, the school wrote, “We will miss Veronique’s smile, her laughter and the joy she brought to our community. We will continue to surround Veronique’s family and friends with love and support. May she rest in peace.”
And at a construction site in Sydney this morning, a relative of the children started the workday by leading dozens of site workers in prayer – praying the Lords Prayer, the Hail Mary, and an Arabic Catholic prayer called Ya Oum Allah, followed by a minute’s silence (below).
As well as being active in church life, the three Abdallah children who died were involved with “Team Jesus” – a Christian outreach to the homeless in Blacktown and Parramatta. In a statement, the group’s co-ordinators David and Carolyn paid tribute to the three children, saying they “served with joy and with a dedication that we rarely see in adults”, and that they made a “huge impression” on those they met.
“Since day one of our ministry in Blacktown, where we provide a food and clothing service to the poor, needy and the homeless, Anthony, Angelina and Sienna, and all Danny’s family joined us regularly and they put themselves in the service of those who are in most need of our help,” they said.
“They stood in line with the adult team members to serve food and to give a smile to those who needed it most. In fact, these little angels used to encourage or rather insist on their parents to take them to Blacktown on Friday night so they could serve, not the other way round.
“Not only did they serve at tables, but they insisted on praying for the people whom we served, and their prayers brought the blessings and favour of God upon the place.
“Danny & Leila are not raising average children. They are raising children after God’s own heart.”
The Our Lady of Lebanon Co-Cathedral in Harris Park is holding prayer services each night this week for the families of the children.
In a statement, the church Dean, Reverend Father Tony Sarkis said the church was supporting the family in practical and spiritual ways.
“This heartbreaking event has touched the hearts of all the community and we ask everyone to continue to pray for the three families entrusting them to the glory of the Resurrection and eternal life,” he wrote.