The parents of four children killed by a drunk driver in Sydney’s west want the anniversary of their deaths to be a day of forgiveness and celebration.
- The cousins had been walking to the shop for an ice-cream when they were struck
- Their parents have created i4give Day in their memory to be celebrated on February 1
- The driver, Samuel Davidson, has pleaded guilty to seven charges
Siblings Antony, 13, Angelina, 12, and Sienna Abdallah, 9, and their cousin Veronique Sakr, 11, were killed on February 1 last year when they were struck by an out-of-control ute that mounted a footpath where they were walking in Oatlands.
The children had been walking to the shop to buy ice-cream at the time of the crash.
The Abdallah and Sakr families have forgiven the driver, Samuel Davidson, as an important step in their grieving process.
At a ceremony in Sydney, the families on Sunday launched ‘i4give Day’, to be held each anniversary in memory of the children and to encourage people across the state to reflect on events and relationships in their own lives.
Along with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his wife, Jenny, and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, family members released four white doves and some butterflies in memory of the children.
Danny Abdallah said the grieving families had found peace by forgiving, but that it hadn’t been easy.
“Friends, I am in pain, my days are empty, my heart is aching,” he said.
“Tears of hopelessness visit me each day. I am dying on the inside and it’s hard to take much more.”
Mr Abdallah said he faced a choice to take a “path of destruction or a path of construction”.
“I forgive myself and I forgive the offender for the greater good of my family,” he said.
“This has allowed us to live in a state of peace and grace, and I promise you if my children were here today they’d say, ‘Forgive him’.”
Leila Abdallah said she felt mixed emotions about the day and was both heartbroken by her loss but grateful the NSW Government was supporting the family’s initiative.
“We chose to turn our tragedy into a greater goodness. We chose to carry our cross with dignity. We chose forgiveness and love over hatred.
The Abdallah family are devout Maronite Catholics and credit God with helping them through their grief.
“For non-believers, forgiveness frees up your emotions. It brings healing to a hurting soul and allows you to have peace in your heart,” Ms Abdallah said.
She said the family’s wishes were for the entire community to “unite under the umbrella of this day”.
“It starts in your heart, spreads to the family and reaches to the community.”
Mr Morrison described the Abdallah family’s ability to forgive in the days after the accident as “breathtaking”.
Mr Morrison referred to the Lord’s Prayer and its message of forgiveness.
“We know [the words] by heart. We think we knew what they meant but when you have to face it, when you have to confront pain and suffering in the extreme, then you realise how truly difficult that is,” he said.
“To see someone not only say these words but live them, even in the midst of continued pain and grief, leaves me in awe.”
Ms Berejiklian said the families had given the country “a wonderful gift”.
“The gift of i4give Day will be something that is part of us forever.”
Ms Berejiklian went on to quote Martin Luther King: “[Forgiveness] is not an occasional act, but it’s a constant attitude, something we live with every day,” she said.
Davidson has pleaded guilty to four charges of manslaughter and three other offences, including dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm.
He is accused of having a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit, while court documents revealed he also had cocaine and MDMA in his system.
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