The Family of Peace Corps Volunteer Tessa Horan says the Peace Corps' handling of her death in a shark attack in Tonga in February left them with a bitter feeling
Horan's mother, Kristena Prater, said the Peace Corps refused to pay for the memorial service and misled the family about retrieving the body. Though Horan's family achieved a great deal of healing on a trip to Tonga to build a library in her name, the difficulties they encountered have pushed Prater to try to change Peace Corps guidelines. "My daughter was serving her country," Prater said. "I wrote to the Peace Corps, and they weren't receptive, so I've involved my congressman and my governor." Read more and leave your comments.
Family finishes project after Peace Corps Volunteer Tessa Horan dies in shark attack in Tonga
On Oct. 17, Tessa's parents, sister Jasmine, McDowell and boyfriend, Scott Jones, got on a plane to Tonga. "She left a year ago, and we basically retraced her steps," Prater said. "We stayed with the host families, met the Peace Corps people, flew into the airport. We went through what she did. Her fellow Peace Corps workers took time off their islands and spent all the time we were there getting the library together." The family was treated like dignitaries while in Tonga. People talked to them on the street, and they were accepted everywhere with grace. Even the crown prince met with the family, breaking a tradition wherein the royal family does not receive guests within 100 days of the death of a king. What may have struck Horan's family the strongest, however, was a healing similar to their own. After the shark attacked Horan, she called out for help. Tatafu, a 25-year-old villager, put fear aside and swam out to help her. "I don't think we realized," McDowell said, "if he hadn't been swimming with her that day ... we would not have known what happened to her." Read more.
Tess Horan's family traveled to Tonga to carry out her dream of establishing a library on the island
They visited the school where she had taught, met the other volunteers in her Peace Corps group and visited the tiny house where she had lived. They took a boat to the spot in the ocean where she had been attacked by the shark and scattered her ashes and flowers over the water. Prater said she was touched by the reverence with which the villagers treated the family and the respect they seemed to have for Horan. "She had made notice of her integrity, intention, and sincerity so immediately in this small village,'' Prater wrote in a journal she kept of the trip. "In a way, she had lived there a lifetime, as far as they were concerned. The first day she arrived at her site, she went to every house and introduced herself to 60 different households.'' Read more.
Caption: Dan Equinoss, a Peace Corps volunteer from Group 70, trained with Tessa Marie Horan during her time in the South Pacific. The new library was constructed using money from a memorial fund established in Tessa’s name and is now stocked with about 1,500 donated books.