Waldorf family honors son lost on 9/11 with scholarship
Waldorf family starts 5K and scholarship to honor son and brother lost in 9/11
Devita Bishundat was in her freshman year of college when on Sept. 11, 2001, she woke up in her dorm to find her life altered forever.
Her brother, Kris Romeo Bishundat — he went by Romeo — was killed that day at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. It was three days before his 24th birthday.
“I think all of us thought he would be outside helping and that’s why he wasn’t picking up the phone,” Devita said, remembering the events of that day. “A friend ended up picking me up from school to take me home that evening and then someone came the next morning and said that 24 hours had passed and he hadn’t reported for duty and was officially missing.”
In an effort to remember Romeo, the Bishundat family started a 5K race and scholarship in Charles County. This year’s race was unexpectedly cancelled because of some procedural changes Thomas Stone High School is making regarding running such events, according to school system spokeswoman Katie O’Malley-Simpson. Instead, the Waldorf family will host a walk 8:15 a.m. Saturday at the St. Charles pond behind the Huntington neighborhood in addition to a virtual 5K on Facebook to raise funds for the scholarships in Romeo’s name: a $500 scholarship for a Thomas Stone student and a $250 scholarship for a Westlake High School student, where Romeo’s father used to work.
“I understand the frustration in regards to the timing of the cancellation of this year’s 5K,” school system Superintendent Kimberly Hill said in an email. “We are in the process of working out some procedural issues with holding the event at Thomas Stone High School, and have every intention of supporting and resuming the 5K next year if the family chooses to hold the event.”
“A huge focus [of the 5K] is on my brother and honoring him and keeping his memory alive and the second part is to keep our community together and show support for the folks who serve our country,” Devita said. “As more years pass we have more people who were not alive during 9/11 or they were really young so it’s a way to share with younger generations what happened that day and honor those whose lives who were impacted.”
Bhola and Basmattie Bishundat, Romeo’s parents, immigrated to the U.S. from Georgetown, Guyana, when Romeo was 2-years-old. They settled in Waldorf and had two more children, Danita and Devita. The children graduated from Thomas Stone and through his mother’s guidance, Romeo joined the U.S. military and enlisted in the Navy the day before his 18th birthday.
“I thought that would be a good place for Romeo,” Basmattie said of her son’s enlisting. “I thought it would make a man of him. I really admired the service when I came to this country and as far as I’m concerned every young man should join a branch of the service.”
Romeo went on to serve for six years aboard the USS Yorktown and USS Shreveport. According to information from the 9/11 Pentagon memorial, Romeo provided computer accessibility distance learning and operated as the USS Shreveport’s webmaster.
“He was excited about it,” Basmattie said of her son. “He loved to travel and he had great experiences.”
When Romeo was transferred to the Pentagon in May 2001, Basmattie said she was happy to have her son close to home again.
“We were happy to have him home, we thought he was in a safe place and wouldn’t have to worry. When he lived in Norfolk I was always worried about him driving back there.”
Four months after his transfer, Romeo’s office relocated to a newly renovated wing of the Pentagon where it was struck by American Airlines Flight 77 on Sept. 11.
“I don’t think time really heals anything, it’s just a different way of living,” Devita said. “But especially for folks who lost somebody on 9/11, I think especially around the anniversary time, the images are replayed on TV and it’s not something we can get away from so it’s just a constant reliving what happened for the days, weeks and months that followed.”
“Every year I’m getting better but all the emotions keep coming back,” Basmattie said, reiterating her disappointment that the 5K was cancelled this year on the 15th anniversary of 9/11. “There are no words to say because every year as long as we live Romeo will be with us. That’s why we decided to do the walk and the scholarships.”
Though the family said they are heartbroken that they will never know how Romeo’s life would have turned out, they hope the 5K and scholarship they began will keep his memory alive and remind others what they loved about him.
“For us it’s being able to share more of his spirit and his life with other people,” Devita said. “There were so many people who did not have the opportunity to be impacted by him and it’s a way to keep his memory alive and to honor him. One of his life’s philosophies was paying it forward so that’s something we tr y to do for others.”
The Bishundat family, Bhola, left, Basmattie, Danita, her two children, Elena and Ethan, and Devita have hosted several 5K races in honor of their son and brother, Kris Romeo Bishundat, who was killed in 9/11 at the Pentagon.
Kris Romeo Bishundat, a Thomas Stone High School alum, was killed on Sept. 11, 2001, while at work at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. His family hosts a yearly 5K and scholarship in his memory.
The Bishundat family commemorated Romeo’s jeep after him upon his death at the Pentagon on Sept. 11. His sister, Devita, said the Jeep “was one of his most prized possessions. One of his pride and joys.”