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

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By SARA NEW­MAN snew­man@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @in­dy_­com­mu­nity

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.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

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.”

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