Originally created 04/14/97

`They were our sons and daughters'



At Good Shepherd Baptist Church, 36 white candles burned in crystal votives Sunday night, each flame representing a life extinguished by homicide in 1996.

"We are here to remember the 36 people who lost their lives in 1996 to senseless acts of violence," said Barbara Thurmond at a memorial service commemorating 1996 murder victims from Richmond and Columbia counties. "They were not just numbers, they were our lovers, our friends, sisters, brothers.

"They were our sons and daughters."

Seven months ago after an evening church service, Linda Washington returned home to the awful, heart-wrenching news that her only son had been murdered.

Michael "Connie" Washington, 20, was gunned down Sept. 4 as he was leaving Stonegate Apartment complex, searching for a friend.

Mr. Washington was a beloved son and father, who dreamed of someday enlisting in the Army, his mother said, at times pausing to let the pain pass from her voice.

"My son's life was gone," Mrs. Washington said. "His dreams and hopes were gone.

"He's not just a statistic, he was a person who loved and he loved."

About 115 people gathered at the church for the memorial service. The service was a celebration and remembrance of life, as well as an effort to galvanize the community against violence, organizers said.

"A lot of these people died at a very young age" pursuing the violent lives espoused by popular movies and musicians, said Terence Dicks, treasurer of Blacks Against Black Crimes.

"Death is the wrong way to go towards immortality," Mr. Dicks said.

The Rev. Oscar Brown, pastor of Good Shepherd Baptist Church, urged people to stand together to fight violent crime, the spread of drugs and hate within their neighborhoods.

"We need to fix a founded community that is still suffering, so that some (other) victims may not lose their lives," he said. "Let's bring an end to the senseless killings that plague our community.



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