It was late at night and I was numb. Edsel had been my closest colleague and a fantastic friend for over ten years. In the morning I was still numb and spent the morning sending a couple of emails to his friends and colleagues. Edsel had a very split life; he was a true Kittitian and had a huge network of family and friends on the island itself, but those people barely knew a lot of his international work colleagues with whom he had shared so many memories – he still had his connections in Nashville through Vanderbilt University. That conference in Jamaica was for the GIS community in the Caribbean and both of us had served on the committee for several years. He was well known and liked by everyone he came in contact with, but now I was that link to those GISers.
I had to compose an email to this community – we were preparing for the conference even while in was in Haiti. I also got in contact with some of his family in St Kitts and in the UK, including his nephew in St Kitts whom he had taken under his wing. Within a couple of hours of me sending out this email, I got a dozen replies, from those who knew and respected Edsel as a colleague and sent formal condolences, to those who knew him as a friend and had to admit my message had immediately made them cry. I even got a few emails from people who knew how close we were – I’ve never come across anyone who had the same vision for how we could help GIS develop in small island nations, or have such complementary skills to see it, and also share the same wicked sense of humour. These people realised just how much I was mourning as well as going through the motions. It was tough. And here I was in the middle of a intense contract in a difficult country miles from my own support networks. When I was cheerfully greeted by Jean Luc and Chris at breakfast, they quickly saw my mood and knew I had bad news. I managed to stay composed and in fact the nature of my work – the strict modelling on the computer and the creativity of making good looking maps, helped me to keep things together for the next few days while I searched for the emotions to find a useful way to vent them.
I became a liaison between Edsel’s family in UK and St Kitts and his GIS colleagues all over the world and did what I could to relay information back and forth, and post messages about him on his Facebook page.
I can’t express everything I felt at that time; you will read elsewhere of our work, our friendship and the adventures we had in many places over the years. But he was one person I was looking forward to meeting up with when we were old and reflect on our times, and we were robbed of that, as well as to make new times and continue to explore our vision and camaraderie. I still miss him dreadfully.