The names of children and staff involved in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings were remembered as victims of senseless gun violence. The Sandy Hook one-year anniversary sounded bells throughout the town.
“We’re here to remember the children and staff, to remember every victim of gun violence,” Stark said, voicing frustration at the lack of legislation for universal background checks for firearm sales.
A morning vigil at Five Points at the foot of McHenry Avenue was held to raise awareness for the need for gun control. Last year’s Connecticut school shooting was on the mind of Carole Stark of the Brady Bill Campaign, as she led a small group with signs that read, “Sandy Hook — We can’t forget! senseless loss” and “Stop gun violence.”
“Nothing has happened. It’s been a year, and Congress has done nothing,” she said. “It’s just appalling. Our nation is better than this.”
Susan Levy, mother of murder victim Chandra Levy, drove home the point. “Violence is violence, no matter what. That’s why I’m here,” said Levy, whose daughter was murdered in 2001 in Washington’s Rock Creek Park.
The afternoon service at First Christian Methodist Episcopal Church included a Violence Prevention Banquet with praise and worship service and a tribute to west Modesto families who have lost members to violent crime. Gospel songs and praise dances alternated with poetry readings and prayers.
Among those in attendance were the family of 2-year-old Yajaira Mendez, killed in April on her scooter by a drunken driver just two blocks from the church.
The Rev. Wanda Johnson-Moore, mother of an unarmed black man killed by a white Bay Area transit officer, gave the keynote speech.
Johnson-Moore, now living in Tracy, told of the death of her son Oscar Grant at the Fruitvale BART Station on Jan. 1, 2009. She spent New Year’s Eve, her birthday, with her son and asked him to not drive that night.
“I thought my son would minister with me,” she said. But with his death, she has come to believe God had a different plan for her son. The death raised concerns of law enforcement excesses, she said. “He’s still ministering to people — all over the world,” she said, through the Oscar Grant Foundation.
The African-American community is in a crisis, she said, with more than half of men 18 to 30 years old in prison. More in the community need to go into law enforcement, government and teaching professions, she said.