As the rest of the world celebrated Valentine’s Day yesterday, the spectre of Reeva Steenkamp’s death at the hands of her famous lover a year ago ensured the hearts of lifelong friends in her home town of Port Elizabeth belonged only to her memory.
Residents of one of South Africa’s quietest coastal cities could not have known that their lives would be turned upside down following the Steenkamp killing, as international media descended en masse to probe the upbringing of the glamorous model shot repeatedly a year ago by “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius.
For weeks, print and television journalists looked into every area of her life, interviewing anybody who had known the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University graduate.
Yet, in the 12 months since, as the focus of the killing has shifted towards the murder trial which begins next month, Port Elizabeth has largely fallen out of the spotlight, save for the latest update on a civil claim against Pretorius made by Steenkamp’s parents, Barry and June.
Yesterday, a day marked by gloomy weather with intermittent rain, no official memorial was held for Steenkamp, who rose up the modelling ranks after performing well in several local competitions.
The loss of one of Port Elizabeth’s favourite daughters, it seemed, was a memory too painful to digest once again in the public eye.
At the Barking Spider pub in Greenbushes, which is owned by Steenkamp’s parents, a note attached to the gate indicated their business was closed for the day, while the Victoria Park Crematorium, where her funeral was held, was devoid of activity.
“There is no memorial. I think everyone has turned their attention to the court case,” a caretaker said.
At Pollok Beach, where her ashes had been scattered by friends and family, flowers were placed on the sand. A poem on torn foolscap paper was attached to one of the wreaths, its message to Pistorius clear.
Addressed to Oscar “Pretorius”, it read: “Angels, when Reeva cried. When Oscar’s bullet crossed her heart she hoped to die. He will shed tears in court, but they are fake. They don’t hurt … one way or another he will get what he deserves.”
Outside her family, the pain of her death was perhaps most felt by those closest to her during her formative years, when she was known as a young and bright girl with her sights set on a modelling career.
“Some friends will never die, they remain in our hearts always,” said friend and fellow model Danelle Coetzee.
“Since the first time we met you as teenagers, on our journey to becoming models, through varsity and beyond, she always remained the same Reeva. I can only learn from her,” Coetzee said.
Port Elizabeth fashion editor Barbara Robertson, who met her as a young girl during a modelling competition, said she was still haunted by the blonde beauty’s tragic death.
“As a mother of two daughters myself, her death hit very close to home. It is so tragic,” Robertson said.
“She was sweet, kind, witty, vivacious and intelligent. When I met her as a 15-year-old up-and-coming model she was already beautiful on the inside and on the outside. And that shone through in every aspect of her life.”
Port Elizabeth photographer Mark West, who took Steenkamp’s first professional modelling shots when she was 15, remembered her as being a “very deep, caring individual”.
“I was very friendly with her when she first started her modelling career, but then we lost touch. However, before her death we had reconnected on Facebook, and she was still the same multifaceted, thoughtful individual I remembered her as,” West said. “She was such a caring person, which was why everyone loved her.”
The anniversary of Steenkamp’s death was not lost on social media users, and the model’s Twitter account remains open and her last entry – on the day before her death – suggests she was looking forward to an upcoming event: “I’m there like a bear!!! Yayyyy!!!! X”
A special Facebook page, RIP Reeva Steenkamp, has been established, and scores around the country and abroad paid tribute.
Eva Dalving posted, “We still haven’t forgotten you, sweet beautiful child”, while Natalie Javurek did not mince her words, saying, “Hope Oscar pays. He deserves life in prison, no parole.”
Reandre De Pinto said, “Hey so we know u up there looking down on us so our praise is that u will look after God like God looks after us mwah to u Reeva,”, while Belinda van Zyl wrote, “God only picks special flowers – you were special, therefore you were picked. Our prayers are with the Steenkamp family”. - The Saturday Star