Generally speaking, truck convoys are fun. They are big and loud. Most are fundraisers for a good cause giving truckers the opportunity to commune while not on the road and racing the clock or kvetching over a truck stop’s dinner special.
Most are that way, but not all. One being held this weekend is going to be small and intimate, but for a cause as good as can be.
Saturday morning, 10 trucks are expected to make a modest drive through rural northwest Mississippi. They’ll depart Lula and travel the 20 or so miles to Clarksdale. The destination is the McLaurin Memorial Garden. The purpose is to ensure a young woman trucker is not forgotten and the cause of her death at a New Orleans truck stop a year ago is not left undetermined.
Yolanda Tappin, a team driver for Schneider National from Houston, said she did not know Karmeshia Thomas, but could not let the anniversary of her death pass unnoticed.
“It shocked me and the rest of the trucker world that something like this could have happened,” said Tappin, who maintains the Divas With a Driven Purpose Facebook group. “I decided to take it upon myself to do a one-year dedication to let her mom and family know that the community has not forgotten her daughter. We want her mom to know she will be remembered.”
Tappin organized the convoy. A graveside service and balloon release will be held and a gathering and meal will follow.
On Sept. 9 of last year, Karmeshia Thomas called her mother from inside the Mardi Gras Truck Stop, which is not far from Interstate 610 in New Orleans. She told her mother her cell phone had been stolen while she was on Bourbon Street.
That’s the last Joyce Thomas would hear from her daughter.
The body of Karmeshia, who drove for KLLM, was found in her truck at the truck stop three days later. Her mother had called KLLM when she did not hear again from her daughter, which in turn called the truck stop. A parking lot attendant called authorities after checking the truck.
Joyce Thomas remembers her daughter as a “very energetic, very helpful, very nice person who was easy to get along with.”
She said Karmeshia graduated from Alcorn State University, and according to her mother, became a trucker because “she wanted to learn different things and see other places in the world.” Then, said her mother, Karmeshia planned to return to college to get her masters degree.
Thomas said she is grateful to the organizers of Saturday’s memorial events. “It’s very nice, very thoughtful of them to think about my daughter and do this,” she said.
Police have released little information about the young woman trucker’s death. Tappin hopes that Saturday’s event will serve as a reminder that the investigation cannot be allowed to go cold. She also plans to advocate for truck stops to have security cameras in parking lots.
Aaron Lonney, public information officer for the New Orleans Police Departments said in an email, “The death of Karmeshia Thomas remains an unclassified death. The investigation has been cleared by exception, meaning that the investigation involve(s) circumstances beyond NOPD’s control that prevent formal charges from being issued. No arrests have been made, nor any suspects identified.”