Good will helps McEachern cope with Rajaan Bennett tragedy

Rajaan Bennett’s life was snuffed out just as he was about soar by a sick man in a jealous rage. It’s hard to imagine any good coming from that.

Yet some has.

McEachern High School athletics director Jimmy Dorsey is dealing with the irony of that every day.

Rajaan Bennett

Rajaan Bennett

“The outpouring of response from people has been unbelievable,” Dorsey said Wednesday morning as he tended to the final details of tonight’s 7 p.m. memorial service at the McEachern Gymnasium. “Whether it’s what happened in Haiti, which was just devastating, or something like this, there’s just a lot instances where people really do step up to the plate. We’re getting a real dose of that here and it’s just been uplifting. It’s been phenomenal, more than we could have expected.”

Bennett, 18, was shot and killed while being held hostage with other family members by his mother’s ex-boyfriend in their Powder Springs home in the wee hours of the morning last Thursday (Feb. 18). An uncle was injured in the shooting while his mother, 14-year-old sister and 17-year-old brother escaped unharmed.

Bennett was a star running back at McEachern High School, best buddy to his special-needs younger brother and an aspiring architect. He had signed a letter-of-intent to attend Vanderbilt University on a football scholarship just two weeks earlier.

Almost a week later, Dorsey is still an emotional wreck. A thought or mention of Bennett can leave him weeping at his desk. But he has had to keep it together as chief emissary to the Bennett family and point person for the landslide of support that is pouring in for them.

“We’ve probably received I guess close to 200-plus donations in some form from people all over our community and Metro Atlanta and Georgia and outside of Georgia,” Dorsey said. “We’ve had everything from an anonymous person who wanted to pay an entire year’s rent for Ms. Bennett to a business that is going to set up a $4,000-a-year scholarship that they want to establish at our school in Rajaan’s memory. So it’s just been a gamut of people doing things.”

  • Like the lawn-care specialist who sent a check and a hand-written letter saying he wanted to cut the Bennett’s grass “as long as they’ll allow me to do it.”
  • Like the gentleman from New Jersey who called to say he’d been keeping up on the Internet and wanted to send a donation to the family. “I don’t know that I’ve ever read anything more heartbreaking than this,” he told Dorsey.
  • Or like the young girl that meekly knocked on Dorsey’s office door to hand-deliver $12 of her own money.

“She says, ‘Here’s some money for Rajaan’s fund. It’s all I’ve got,’” Dorsey said, choking back emotion. “You just knew she scraped to get it. She said, ‘I wish I had more.’ It just tore my heart out. I had tears coming down my face. I said, ‘Honey, you’ll never know how much it means. The fact that you’d walk in here and do that is just amazing.” I hated taking it from her but I wouldn’t disrespect her for anything. She walked out of here and I just sat here at my desk and cried.”

Tonight’s memorial service will be as much about thanking all those people as it will be to remember short, impressive life of Rajaan Bennett. Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson will speak. So will Tennessee Titans player Gerald McRath, a McEachern grad. And Rajaan’s mother, Narjaketha Bennett, sequestered since that horrible night, will make her first public remarks.

Viewing and visitation is Friday evening at the First Baptist Church of Powder Springs. Funeral services are Saturday morning at 11 a.m. at Trinity Chapel in Powder Springs. Mayes Ward-Dobbins Funeral Home in Marietta is handling the arrangements.

The Vanderbilt coach and his wife Catherine plan to attend it all, Dorsey said.

“He said, ‘I’m going to be there for all of it,” Dorsey said. “This guy has been unreal. You know, he never really knew Rajaan outside of recruiting. But the Vanderbilt community has been unreal. Phone calls, donations, you know, it’s been something else.”

The money is sorely needed. Bennett’s funeral expenses had to be taken care of. Understandably, the family does not want to remain in the home. So they must relocate and move. There are medical expenses for Rajaan’s uncle, Taiwan Hunter, who was wounded in the shooting but will survive. And Dorsey is hopeful there will be enough left over to care for Des Bennett, an autistic child who will need a lifetime of help.

Dorsey has not yet counted up all the donations. For now they’re stuffed in lockbox awaiting an official accounting.

But for him the outpouring has not been about financial restoration.

“As tragic as this was it just kind of reaffirms your faith in people,” he said. “There are still a lot more good people than bad people in this world. That part of this thing has really given us all the strength to get through this. The initial shock of that was hard. You almost lose your faith in mankind that something like that could happen. And then this happens and you get your faith back and then some.

“I told his mom yesterday, I said, ‘Ms. Bennett, none of us can understand what happened to your son and why the Good Lord chose him; we can’t rationalize that. But there is so much good that’s going to come out of this. I really think Rajaan is going to touch more lives this way than maybe he would have any other way.’ That’s the only sense I can make of it.”

18 comments Add your comment

lowndes25

February 24th, 2010
1:32 pm

Just a tragic ending for such a wonderful young man…..

RxDawg

February 24th, 2010
2:05 pm

Excellent article Chip. It’s great to see such goodness overcome the madness of one man.

juliet Ashaka

February 24th, 2010
2:06 pm

I am just an emotional wreck right now but I have to stay strong to comfort my kids; one of them them his classmate and another who is in the Mceachern jr football program… My heart goes to his mom..hoping that God gives her strenght to bear the the pain or her loss.

Damita

February 24th, 2010
2:28 pm

I did not know this young man but I cry everytime I see the news and hear this story just as I cried moments ago. God has a plan for us all but I question his plan at times. This falls at the top of my list when it comes to questioning. I pray for his soul, his mother, his family, the whole McEachern community. I have two young daughters and I pray everyday they will live to be prosperous, law obiding, successful young women just as this young man should have been.

sharon

February 24th, 2010
2:35 pm

It’s a shame you can’t end a relationship without wondering whether or not the person is going to take your life or your children’s. What a piece of sh#t he person was to bring this tragedy on this family.

how2fish

February 24th, 2010
2:43 pm

May the Lord help his family and welcome him home.

Denise McKenzie

February 24th, 2010
3:17 pm

Remember folks, there is an enemy out here whose job is to kill, steal and destroy. This was a demonic spirit. This was never in God’s plan. God had a good plan for Rajaan Bennett and for him to fulfill it. This ex came and decided he was going to be the one to make the final decision for this family. It was all done out of envy, jealousy and hate. May the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, comfort this mother, brother, sister and the entire McEachern community and may Rajaan’s life continue to be an inspiration to us all!

Brett

February 24th, 2010
8:37 pm

well said Denise. This wasn’t God’s plan. This was a human being using his freedom in an evil way. God’s grace is making the best of this tragedy.

Just Another Mom

February 24th, 2010
9:07 pm

My prayers are with the Bennett family each one of them. My son went to McEachern a few years ago and now works with the NFL and he knew how great a player Rajaan was. May God grant comfort to all the family and to all the “Indian” family too. As a Mom my heart aches for his Mother, may God’s grace give her a peace and comfort that passes all understanding. Angel #5 you will be missed.

M Larkins

February 24th, 2010
11:23 pm

This is such a heart wrenching situation, and watching this beautiful mother on the news tonight broke my heart. This story is one that is almost too much, but what a wonderful woman Ms. Bennett is – is shows through her son. I pray that God will put His loving arms around this family and just hold them, as He often does in times like this. Ms. Bennett, just reading the things your son wrote, his love for you, his brother and sister, reflects a truth and light about you that no one will ever be able to destroy. God Bless You, you will breathe again, but for now, let God carry you. And to the McEachern staff, specifically to Mr. Dorsey, you will probably never know how important what you are doing is to this family. Thank you and God Bless you as well.

JJ

February 25th, 2010
12:08 am

No excuse for this happening. This mother had to have known something was up…I’m not buying it.

Vandy Alum from ATL

February 25th, 2010
9:35 am

The Vanderbilt Community lost a great one that it never knew. It’s taking this pretty hard. A moment of silence was observed at both the baseball game and at the Vandy-UK basketball game on Saturday.

Bobby Johnson preaches family to his team, and to the Vandy community, this is losing one of their own. May God give the Bennett family, and all of us who were touched by Rajaan in some way, comfort in this incredibly difficult time.

Ally

February 25th, 2010
1:05 pm

I don’t kow this young man and am in no way linked to the McEachern community; but, I also cry everytime I hear or read anything about this heart wrenching news. It’s horrible. There’s no other way to put it. I know what it means to be young and have to step up and take care of your family. What Rajaan meant to his mom and siblings is more than words to could ever express. I also know how important football players our to our GA high schools, having attended one myself: They truly have an impact on the lives of many. There is no doubt that this young many made a difference. My heart goes out to his family. First to his Mom; because there is nothing like a mother -son relationship, especially in the absence of a father. I pray for her every day (and I’m not just saying that, I truly do). I pray for his sister. I have brothers myself so I know what a strong bond a brother and sister have. I also pray for his brother, he and Rajaan were probably best of friends.

No one can say why Rajaan had to go so soon; but may his family, friends and everyone impacted by this event find peace in knowing that he did not go in vain. This tragedy will open so many doors and inspire so many. He may not be here physically but he is still making a difference.

God Bless!

DC from Conyers

February 26th, 2010
11:04 am

Having a little familarity with McEachern I know how they feel about their Students. This is such a Tragic situation. This kid sounds like he really had his priorites in order. First he stepped in and became the Father figure that he tragiclly lost. Being the person who looked out for his Mother and siblings. He was preparing himself for the future by maintaining a 3.8 GPA. This tell me he wasn’t just relying on football like so many kids do. He chose a Great Academic institution to attend to further his future. Knowing it is a very hard institution to graduate from. Last but not least he stayed in the bathroom to protect his family. Such a tragic loss and all I can say is God Bless this family because they sure have had their share of tragedy. To his family and friends hold Rajaan up high to everyone, let him be a great example of how young people should live their lives. I pray for all the family and friends, and God Bless you all.

diamond

February 26th, 2010
7:39 pm

WHY WOULD THIS HAPPEN TO PUT LOVED ONES …THIS IS SUCH A TRAGIC TO PEOPLE WHO KNEW AND NOW TO PEOPLE THAT KNOW ABOUT THIS…. R.I.P ( rest in peace)….

Jaima

March 1st, 2010
1:45 pm

Psalm 18:2 – The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

JJ wow, just wow. Ms. Bennett could not control the actions of this man. Did you ever think about the reason she probably wasn’t with him anymore. Peace be still. I will be praying for you JJ.

Vanderbilt Admirer

March 7th, 2010
10:01 pm

Horrible Tragedy. Unbelievable pain. Wonderful Support especially from the local community and the Vandy Community. I’ve always heard great things about Coach Bobby Johnson. Now I understand.

RB's center

May 8th, 2010
6:46 pm

I played the starting center as a senior in that highlight reel and now go to auburn university. Playing with him was truly a blessing, and even as a junior he was a leader on AND off the field. I can proudly say he was the best man and player i have ever known and i will always remember him.