A brutal triple murder rocked East Hartford in 2003: Michael Kendall shot his two daughters and estranged wife, then burned their bodies and home. Alexis Kendall, one of those killed, was a student at East Hartford Middle School.
Six years later, Alexis's former English teacher, John Mckeag, is still working to build a garden in her honor. The weekend of her death Mr. Mckeag assigned her the book "So Far From the Bamboo Grove" to read. After her death, fellow classmates and teachers suggested building a garden in Kendall's honor.
The book Kendall was reading was written by Yoko Kawashima Watkins. It chronicled the life of a young Japanese girl during World War II who sought refuge in a bamboo garden behind her home. Mckeag said, "to contrast that, Alexis's sister and mother weren't able to find a similar safe place in their lives." Mckeag decided to make the memorial garden a bamboo garden, much like in the book.
The author found out about the garden two years ago, when a friend in Connecticut contacted her after hearing about Alexis Kendall. Yoko Kawashima Watkins said she was touched by the story and sent $200 to John Mckeag.
On Wednesday, Kawashima Watkins visited the school and toured the garden built in Alexis's honor.
When asked what the bamboo signified, Kawashima Watkins said, "strength, elegance, and love." She spoke with current students at the Middle School and emphasized the importance of family and forgiveness. "It's the family togetherness that's so important. Maybe daddy was angry, why? I don't know."
John Mckeag said he wants students to remember Alexis's legacy. "I'd like the students, when they see the garden and the plaque, to remember her, and think of her as not someone from the past but as a contemporary."