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Aleida Garcia (with candle) wearing photo of her murdered son during "Vigil For Victims Of Gun Violence." LBWPhoto
Aleida Garcia (with candle) wearing photo of her murdered son during "Vigil For Victims Of Gun Violence." LBWPhoto

[OP-ED]: Remembering Bad For A Good Reason

On a sunny bright but bitter cold day when many around Philly were joyously focused on the bustle of preparations for the holiday season some people gathered…

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Long stem roses laid across the chairs set up for those attending the “Vigil For Victims Of Gun Violence” at the Broad Street Ministries. 

During that vigil some participants gave poignant accounts about how gun violence has torn through their lives. 

Aleida Garcia described the darkness that descended on Saturday January 24, 2015. 

Two Philadelphia police detectives came to Garcia’s job to inform her of her son’s murder hours earlier. When gunfire killed Garcia’s son Alejandro, 34, the father of two was an honor roll student at Temple University.

“I felt like my life shattered around me,” Garcia said. “I fell to the ground and nothings been the same since then. I thought violence was something that happened to other people…not me”

The vigil included a ceremony where many in attendance lit candles for children, siblings, parents, significant others and/or close friends felled by gun violence. One woman lit three candles: one for her son, one for her brother and one for her father.

Painted portraits of children killed by gunfire framed the podium for the speakers at that vigil. 

Those portraits included Marcus Yates, the five-year-old Philadelphian killed in 1988 when two drug dealers exchanged gunfire and victims of the horrific December 14, 2012 mass murder at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that killed 20 children and six adult staff members.

Organizers of that vigil selected the eve of the Sandy Hook massacre for the event.

Judy Ringold, the artist behind the “Lost Dreams on Canvas” project said the portraits “have a voice.”

Shira Goodman, executive director of CeaseFirePA, an anti-gun violence organization, said gun related crime is a “shameful” public health crisis nationwide.

“Congress and Harrisburg have done nothing to keep us safe,” Goodman said. “Actually they have done things to make things worse.”

Philadelphia City Councilmen Derek Green and William Greenlee decried Congress and Harrisburg respectively for actions pushed by the pro-gun rights NRA that aggravate gun violence problems. 

Green slammed Congress for a measure to allow persons to carry concealed guns nationwide. And Greenlee blasted conservative state legislators in Harrisburg for blocking Philadelphia’s efforts to enact local gun control measures.

Executive Director of the anti-violence Mothers In Charge, Dorothy Johnson-Speight, also condemned the NRA (National Rifle Association).

“What about our constitutional rights?” Johnson-Speight said referencing the NRA’s claim that Second Amendment gun related rights are sacrosanct. “Don’t we have a right to live?”

Aleida Garcia criticized the fact that the notorious nightclub where her son’s murder occurred outside remains open despite continuous violence at that establishment including another murder weeks ago.

A North Philadelphia activist criticized Philadelphia police and court authorities for their complicit actions with a chaos causing drug gang composed of four generations of the same family. 

“They are informants for authorities. That shouldn’t happen!”

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