Memorial to the Lost
At vigil, a Harrisburg community calls for an end to gun violence.
Heeding God's Call to End Gun Violence holds its annual Memorial to the Lost prayer service on the lawn in front of St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Harrisburg. The centerpiece of the service is the Memorial to the Lost display commemorating each of the 76 persons killed by gun violence in the Harrisburg area since 2009.
Against the backdrop of a moving memorial of T-shirts inscribed with the names of 72 dead, a Harrisburg community on Thursday night came together to call for peace and an end to gun violence.
The interfaith witness of religious and community leaders and the families of those killed by gun violence met on the lawn of St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Harrisburg in an event entitled "Standing Together for Peace." The gathering of prayer, appeals and music commemorated the 72 people killed by guns in the city since 2009 and also marked the International Day of Peace.
As leaders from faith communities - ranging from the Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities - offered prayers and words of comfort, many of the families of the dead stood by the T-shirts bearing the names of their loved ones.
For some, the passage of time offered a measure of healing; for others the recent loss of a son, brother or father was raw with pain and grief.
"I 'm sitting on 19th and Market with my son's name on a T-shirt. I can't hold him. All I have is a shirt," said Robin Nash, surrendering to her grief with tears and sobbing. "Nothing feels good about it."
Her son, Cordell Nash-Matthews, was 26 when he was killed on May 17. His mother said he died protecting his sister. Her son's death marked the 71st time Heeding God's Call, the organizing group of the vigil, held a memorial for a victim of homicide by guns.
"It's important to do this so we never forget that life is sacred, that we are a part of a common community and peace is important for us all," said the Rev. Belita D. Mitchell, chair of Heeding God's Call Harrisburg.
Since 2009, approximately 72 people have lost their lives in Harrisburg due to gun violence.
"We're not trying to eradicate every gun off the streets," said the Rev. Ron Tilley, one of the organizers with Heeding God's Call. "We know that we would be impossible. We know there's things like the Second Amendment in America. But we want to get all the illegal guns off the street, every last one of them and we know that if we work together as a community, we can get very close to that."
For many, even though the event brought back painful memories, it gave them an opportunity to speak from their hearts.
"It's important to come out here and represent the people that passed," said Jshayla Pena, 16, whose father, Jerome Buckner, was killed in October. "People need to put the guns down. I lost my dad, others lost family members. What are we supposed to do about it? Now I have to grow up without a dad all because people want to shoot. It's not right. People need to put the guns down."
Buckner's uncle, Steven House, who wore a T-shirt with his late nephew's photos on it, said that the idea of "Black Lives Matter" must begin within the black community.
"It has to start among ourselves," he said. "We are killing each other off. We are taking each other's lives. It has to stop."
In the seven years since her son, Darrell Evans, Jr.,was killed, Lisa Burhannan said she has redirected her anger and grief to work for peace and calling for an end to gun violence.
Burhannan is now the president of the Harrisburg chapter of Mother's In Charge, a grassroots group working to end gun violence.
Burhannan on Friday will travel to Washington with other members of the national organization to address Congress.
Her message: "We are here to speak for those who can't speak for themselves. This is about peace and justice. We have to tell Congress that homicide is a public health epidemic."
Tiana Nash, 13, said she hoped members of her community will remember her brother Cornell Nash-Matthews the way she will remember him.
"It's important to show what he did. He was a hero He saved my sister," she said.
Tilley, of Heeding God's Call, said the event was an important way for the community to show support to griveing families.
"Families always tell us how much they appreciate when our community comes together and shows love and concern for their loss. Also it's to make a statement that peace is important and peace is important in our community."
WHERE IS THE MEMORIAL TO THE LOST RIGHT NOW?
Greater Washington, DC Area
Northern Virginia Mennonite Church
3729 Old Lee Highway
Fairfax, VA 22030
September 20-October 3
Jenkintown, PA 19046
September 26-October 10
Trinity Epsicopal Church
October 10-October 23
Please stop in and visit the Memorial!