Victims of murder may be gone but they’re never, ever forgotten. That was the sentiment Saturday morning at a special remembrance ceremony held for victims of violent deaths.
Hundreds of San Diegans gathered at the Crime Victim Oak Garden for the River of Remembrance Ceremony, an annual event that gives survivors an opportunity to pay tribute to those lost to homicide.
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The peer-support event gives people a chance to tell other survivors of crime about their loved ones lives and legacies.
Spearheaded by the Survivors of Violent Loss Program and The Cara Knott Foundation, the event also sheds light on the lasting impact of murder on families and communities.
Richard Chew's son was murdered. To this day, he asks, "Why?"
“It’s not something you make sense out of. It’s something you know you carry with you,” Chew told NBC 7.
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During the ceremony, survivors painted rocks with their loved ones names and placed them in a “river” memorial. Survivors also painted T-shirts and hung them on the “memory clothes line.”
It’s a club no one wants to be in.
“But we’re all a part of it,” said Chew’s wife, Marilyn. “A club of murdered loved ones. You always read about these and you say it happens to somebody else doesn't happen to you and it does. It can happen to anybody."
Each stone set in the memorial marked a new name and new story that has left pain behind for family and friends.
“[This is] for my son, Mark, who passed away in 2012. His girlfriend shot him in the head. Words can't explain for someone to lose their child," mother Marcia Barger shared at the ceremony.
Aniyah West, whose father was murdered, also shared her story.
“Ryan Luis West that is my dad he was shot and somebody lied and then they went to jail,” she said.
The event took place at the same spot where Cara Knott’s body was found back in 1986. She was brutally killed by a California Highway Patrol officer.
Many of the survivors whose lives were forever changed by the murders of their loved ones will never really know what happened. Together, they share a bond.
“Sometimes I feel like I'm really alone, like I'm the only one who lost the loved one. But when I see a lot of people that lost their loved ones, I feel like I'm not alone anymore,” said Robe Mar, mourning the killing of her cousin.
For some, talking about the pain is therapeutic.
“Alot of people tend to not to want to talk about it. I need to talk about it. It brings him closer. It keeps him with me I guess you'd say," added Barger.
The event was also co-sponsored by the Jenna Druck Center, the Center for Mindful Relationships, Victims Assistance Coordinating Council (VACC), Crime Stoppers, Therapy Changes, Crime & Trauma Recovery, Alliance for Community Empowerment (ACE), the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA, the Crime Victims Oak Garden, Parents of Murdered Children (POMC), the San Diego Compassion Project and Mothers With A Message.