A crowd of around 120 people gathered Sunday, at Forest Lawn Cemetery for the marking ceremony of six Kong children, which had been bare and anonymous for 11 years.
There were eight burials at Forest Lawn Cemetery on September 14, 1998, and six of them were for the Kong family children, all murdered siblings, Koua-Eai Kong, 11, Samson Kong, 10, Nali Kong, 9, Tanglung Kong, 7, A-ee Kong, 6, and Tangkee Kong, 5.
“There is no burial in Forest Lawn that is more special than another, but, there are burials that are more memorable,” said Patrick Hogan, the superintendent of Forest Lawn Cemetery.
Hogan said that he remembered the gravesites were full of flowers, candy, balloons and toys on that day 11 years ago. As the time went by, the flowers withered, the balloons deflated, and so it was time for the cemetery staff to clean the gravesite. Among those toys, he said a football stood out as a symbol of their potential if they were alive.
Hogan kept the football with him until his own children were old enough to play with it. Every time he threw the ball to his children, he was reminded of the six children and their potential had they lived.
For 11 years, the football had served him well, he said. For 11 years, he and the cemetery staff marked the children’s graves in their mind and heart.
Family and others that were present at the burial 11 years ago may still remember the site of the graves of the six Kong children. However, most people would pass by the spot not knowing the children were there much less their tragic story. The ceremony marked the graves for the first time for the rest of the community.
Hogan attended the ceremony and brought the football. He presented it to Tou Kong, the father of six children, who was in tears.
Kong had separated with Khoua Her, the mother, before the incident on September 3, 1998, when she took their lives, strangling them one by one.
In the marking ceremony, Ong Xiong, who had visited Her as part of the planning committee effort to mark the gravesites, read a note from Her, who is now serving in Shakopee Prison for Women.
“I am truly sorry that you had to pay the price that you didn’t deserve,” said their mother in the note.
The marking ceremony revisited the tragedy, and yet, has another purpose of learning from her mistake.
“In life, we need to be more proactive and not just react when problem arises,” said Tzianeng Vang, the initiator of the committee to mark the graves in an interview before the ceremony.
The tragedy that shocked the Hmong community 11 years ago was, indeed, preventable, said Ka Houa Yang, the Chairman of Lao Family Community of Minnesota.
Yang said that he wants this to be a lesson for every parent, individual and family, so that a strong and healthy neighborhood can be reached.
Others who spoke at the ceremony included Gna Dou Kong, a leader of the Kong clan; Yang Pao Moua, president of the 18 Clan Council spoke; and members of the St. Paul Police that responded to the call.
The unveiling of the markers to mark this 11th anniversary, allowed a chance for people to place 11 white roses for each child, along with teddy bears, candy and balloons on what are now marked graves.
The three hour ceremony was closed with a prayer and psalm by Rev. Jerry Soung of the Saint Paul Hmong Alliance Church. A brief reception was held afterwards in the Forest Lawn Cemetery Chapel.
|Support people-powered non-profit journalism! Volunteer, contribute news, or become a member to keep the Daily Planet in orbit.|