‘We are all members of one very unique family’
One by one, families came up to take a candle.
A woman in a motorized wheelchair.
A couple holding a large framed photo of their son.
A group dressed in the same pink remembrance shirts.
The first few dozen began to form a circle at Unity Plaza, where each year young victims of violence are remembered.
The circle grew, until it closed.
A smaller circle began to form inside. Soon, it was full, too.
Full of families whose children had been taken by violence.
"I must say, we've never had a circle like this before," said Glen Mitchell, who was leading Monday night's 18th annual ceremony at Terry Parker High School.
Mitchell could have been in the circle himself. His 14-year-old son, Jeff, was killed during a robbery attempt at the high school in 1993. Three years later, the annual ceremonies began.
In the time since, 243 names have been etched in stones in the plaza. Red and yellow flowers were placed on the stones added in years past.
White flowers marked the new members: Cherish, Jordan, Megan, Jazmine, Ryan, D'Quan, Ja'Nie, Arzjawun, Brooklyn, Janya, Darryl, T.J., Kyle, Joseph, Holle, Tariyah, Dara, Jarrod, Geraud and Titania.
There were words of comfort.
"We are all members of one very unique family," Mitchell said. "I know for these new members of the family, you are wondering how will you make it through the next day, the next week, the next year. You will."
Your new family will help you, he promised.
There were calls for an end to the violence that brought the families there.
"The only way we can get by and move on is to fix this," said Scott Schneider, principal at Terry Parker.
To do that, he said, adults have to teach young people the value of life.
And there were tears.
The mother of Megan Simmons cried as she was surrounded by family and friends, all dressed in pink shirts with the 14-year-old girl's photo. Megan and her friend, Jazmine Shelton, were shot in a Missouri Avenue mobile home.
Two young friends who died together whose names are etched in stone in a plaza where they'll always be remembered.