Community seeks solace, answers, end to violence

  • There was too much pain to go around, even with Manchester Police comfort dog Patch on the scene. A memorial gathering held at Derryfield Park Sunday for Central grad and soccer standout Thamba Mbungu drew well over 100 people to pay respects. Jeffrey Hastings—Manchester Ink Link

  • Mary Georges called on the community to come together and fix what’s broken. Jeffrey Hastings—Manchester Ink Link

  • Teammates from Central’s soccer team took turns remembering Thamba Mbungu. Carol Robidoux—Manchester Ink Link

  • Makeshift memorial near where Thamba Mbungu’s body was found. Carol Robidoux—Manchester Ink Link

  • Friends and family remembered Thamba Mbungu at Derryfield Park. Jeffrey Hastings—Manchester Ink Link

  • Friends and family remembered Thamba Mbungu at Derryfield Park. Jeffrey Hastings—Manchester Ink Link

Manchester Ink Link
Published: 11/1/2021 5:43:20 PM

MANCHESTER, N.H. — It was a gathering no one would have imagined a week ago. But the murder of Thamba Mbungu, 20, last weekend drew well over 100 people to the very place where the unthinkable happened. They came to Derryfield Park to remember. They came to connect. They came to mourn, to cry, to call for an end to gun violence, to question the kind of world that would allow a young man from a loving family and tight-knit community to die alone with a bullet in his back.

His friends and family created a makeshift memorial on and around a maple tree near where Thamba’s body was found Sunday morning. There were photographs and poems, messages and mementos. A small trophy from Inti Academy soccer program; two pair of well-worn sneakers; signed Central jerseys; soccer balls; candles, bouquets. Someone wrote that they will finish the dream he never got to, which was to play professional soccer, and said that they would take care of his family. Another person wrote “RIP Bro — je t’aime, monfrère,” I love you my brother, in French.

Thamba Mbungu arrived in Manchester 11 years ago with his family from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His life was a gift to his family, the youngest of eight children, said his brother Joel Mbungu. Although everyone knew him as Thamba, a traditional name taken from his father’s side, his given name was Moses, which means “to pull from the water.”

He explained.

“At the time he was born it was raining a lot, and in the Bible, Moses was taken out of water – and just like the days after Thamba died, it rained for so many days,” said Joel Mbungu.

Like tears from heaven.

Thamba’s family life was centered around the church. They took care of one another. Thamba especially, as the youngest. His entire family supported his aspirations of becoming a professional soccer player. He had the skill and the work ethic. He tried every avenue to get there, but then he suffered a setback when he broke his ankle, and an opportunity to move closer to his dream was deferred. Instead of giving up, Thamba found another way. Recently he traveled to Africa to earn a spot with a national team there, but due to red tape and paperwork, he was sent home.

Instead of giving up, he worked harder to achieve his dream. He had his paperwork in order and plans to return to Africa in December.

The memorial was organized by some of Thamba’s friends and longtime supporters, including a core group of mentors from Hillside Middle School where the Bring It! program first brought them all together. Jodi Harper, Deo Mwano, Brendan McCafferty, Pat O’Neil, and Doug Leclerc were there. There were teachers who had taught not only Thamba but his siblings. There were community members like Bob Champagne, who is director of Kids Cafe at Salvation Army, where he got to know Thamba. And Mary Georges, a former school board member who spoke from the pain and sorrow in her heart, as a member of the Congolese community who came to Manchester with dreams of a better life for her family, and as a mother.

“You kill one, you kill all of us. Our cries need to go to God,” Georges said, calling for justice for Thamba. She made an emotional plea to the community at large for more help and guidance for all those immigrants and refugees who struggle to navigate their new lives in a foreign land. And she called out those who come to Manchester from other cities or states, armed with malice and violent intentions. “We want our city back. Go back to where you came from,” she said.

Police have not yet made an arrest in the murder, although Thamba’s brothers acknowledged that they are working closely with police and the mayor to help solve the crime and hold accountable those who are responsible for Thamba’s death.

Between the lines of love and loss spoken at the park Sunday, there were hints that maybe trouble found Thamba. Even the brightest kids with the greatest potential can make a wrong turn down a dark road. Joel Mbungu said he doesn’t know why, but the night Thamba left the house he asked him not to go.

“I never stopped him from going out, never. But for some reason that day I had a feeling. I stood up and said no, don’t go out. I wanted to take the keys from him. I leaned on his car for a minute and asked him to come back early, because we want to pray together and eat dinner together as a family,” Joel Mbungu said. “He left and never came back.”

All the “what ifs” aren’t going to bring my brother back, Joel Mbungu said.

As far as what brought Thamba to Derryfield Park that night, who he was with, or what went down that he was shot and killed with no one there to help him, those are questions that remain.

“There are pieces of the story out there, but no real answers,” said Pat O’Neil, an English language teacher at Hillside who said he “had the honor and pleasure of being Thamba’s teacher.”

DeoMwano, who go to know Thamba through the Bring It! program, addressed Thamba’s family members.

“There’s nothing you did wrong,” Mwano said, and with emotion rising in his voice he turned his comments toward the community.

“What’s going on? We’re supposed to have each other’s back. What’s happening? Why are we killing each other? This moment — this should change how we move forward,” Mwano said.

“Hold on to the people you love. Keep them close by. Tell them you care about them. Tell them you love them. Take ownership of who you are,” Mwano said. “Whatever you’re seeing in the street life, that’s temporary. We’re all given just one life. We’ve got to be able to cherish one another.”

Calling hours are Nov. 5 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Connor-Healy Funeral Home and Cremation Center, 537 Union St., Manchester. A funeral service will be held Nov. 6 at 9 a.m, in the funeral home. Burial will follow in Pine Grove Cemetery, Manchester.

Plans for a memorial soccer game are in the works for next weekend.

Anyone with information pertaining to the investigation into Thamba Mbungu’s death can leave an anonymous tip via ManchesterCrimeLine.

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