One by one, family by family, people gathered Saturday to honor the ones they lost, the ones whose lives were taken by someone else who had no right to take it.
They spoke their loved ones' names, often with tears, and then used a small stick to ring a meditation bell.
The National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims is now celebrated on Sept. 25 in Fort Wayne because of Pastor Angelo Mante, executive director of Alive Community Outreach, and his organization's partner, Justice Accountability Victims Advocacy. JAVA's primary mission is to get justice for homicide victims and their families.
Saturday evening, on a grassy knoll at the base of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge, Mante led a service for the families of homicide victims in the community where most of them were killed.
“We are working to break the cycle of violence, the never-ending cycle of violence,” Mante said to more than 100 people. “Every single one on our team has lost someone to violence.”
JAVA members held a ribbon-hanging Sept. 19 when many families wrote the name of their lost family members on ribbons to hang on trees lining Clinton Street, south of the bridge.
Stacey Davis, a JAVA co-founder, said more than 100 red-and-black ribbons were hung; 80 of them were signed.
Before the bell-ringing ceremony, Timika Bonner told the story of how her 18-year-old son's friends came to her door to tell her where she could find her son behind a vacant house, dead from stab wounds.
“Oct. 2nd will be nine years for me,” Bonner said. “Every day it seems like yesterday, and no justice has been served. Never say it can't happen to you because it happened to me.”
Leroy Allison, whose daughter, Alonna Allison, 17, died six years ago, wants to change criminal law. Alonna Allison was killed when rival gang members opened fire at a bonfire she attended.
“She was not the target, so it's not murder.” Leroy Allison said, adding that's what he was told. No one has been charged in the shooting death. “You have to make your own justice.”
Allison is now working to get the law changed so more severe penalties can be created for random shootings, he said.
“Don't let nobody tell you how to grieve,” Allison said. “You just got to keep your loved one's name alive.”
Mante, who lost a cousin to gun violence, borrowed from the Bible, John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
The loved one killed “is a beloved child of God stolen from us by the thief of violence,” Mante said, and yet the family still has the blessings of the loved ones lost.