Survivors of murder victims mingled discreetly as photos of their loved ones were presented on a screen before the fourth annual National Day of Remembrance ceremony Friday.
The ceremony at May Park, sponsored by Angel Hearts support group, is observed in September of each year to provide comfort to families and honor those killed in homicides.
As photos of each loved one were placed on a table prior to the evening ceremony, Mary Fallen and her friend Sheila President reflected on the loss of their sons.
Fallen lost her son, Philip Boynton, in March 2013. The 28-year-old died at an area hospital from injuries he suffered after he got into a physical altercation with a group of men at a club on Gordon Highway.
President’s son, Antonio, died in May 2008 after he was shot at a store on Milledgeville Road.
“Spiritually you can forgive cause that’s for you,” President said Friday. “But you don’t have to forget. You remember the good moments.”
The National Day of Remembrance ceremony honoring those lost to violence Friday began with just that.
Fallen said the ceremony was a comfort.
“It was a help,” she said. “You go in there sad but you come out alright.”
It began with a prayer by the Rev. Melvin Ivey of Greater St. John Baptist Church and a welcome from Von Daniels, chapter organizer of the Angel Hearts support group.
Bobby Hankerson, a chaplain with the Sheriff’s Office who was the keynote speaker for this year’s event, talked to attendees about stopping violence in the community. He said the community must first be vigilant of violence and end tolerance to its appearance.
“Violence has left a void and pain in our lives but we must all do whatever we can to stop the violence,” he said.
He also shared his condolences with the attendees.
“I can’t imagine what you feel because you are the one experiencing the loss,” Hankerson said. “But we have this day with this great organization to let you know that we unite with you with compassion.”
Prior to concluding the ceremony, attendees were escorted outside to light candles and release balloons, many of them decorated with the names of their loved ones. As the balloons soared, attendees called out the names of the ones they lost.
Ra’Quez Love, 11, of Augusta, lost his father. He said the event helped him reflect and cope with the fact that he did not get to meet him. As he released his balloon Friday evening, he said he thought about his father’s features and whether he had a personality similar to his.
“It’s kind of sad but happy as well,” he said.
Lorraine Lynch cried had tears in her eyes as she held onto a balloon tagged with the names and thoughtful messages from family for her son Randy Ramos, who was killed in the parking lot of his place of employment in December 2015.
“The healing process is very long,” she said. “But this opportunity helps. It’s comforting to be in an environment with others that share the same pain as you.”
In the original article it was stated that Randy Ramos was the husband of Lorraine Lynch. This story has been edited to correct that Ramos is Lynch’s son.