Over 6,000 names covered the walls of Vinings United Methodist Church Sunday. They were the names of those who have been murdered in the metro Atlanta area since 1991, the year the Atlanta-based Crime Victims Advocacy Council held its first memorial event in the church.
As bereaved family members chatted in the church basement, CVAC executive director Brooks Hunnicutt said the yearly event has a lot of meaning for victims’ families.
“Many families feel like their loved ones have been forgotten,” she said. “People quit asking after a while, they quit checking in on you, they quit telling you that they care, and so this is a place where people can come and they have some sense of how they feel. If my brother was killed and your brother was killed, I don’t have any idea how you feel exactly, but I do have a sense of what you’re going through.”
Kennesaw retiree Ginger Davidson agreed. Her brother, Frank Davidson, was killed in 2013. His wife, Sharon Ann Poss, was convicted of his murder in 2018. Ginger Davidson said justice moved slowly, and it was a comfort to be able to meet with others who understood what she was going through.
Now, she has the opportunity to help others who are in the same situation.
“It’s really to come and honor him and to be with other like-minded people who have gone through the same thing we have. … I was just talking to the lady beside me a while ago, listening to part of her story. The person that killed her son has not been caught yet, and it’s kind of just hanging there. I told her I’ll pray for her and sometimes it just takes time,” she said.
The woman Davidson was talking to was Lakeya Tripp, mother of Jalen De’Shawn Rodgers, who was killed last year.
“He was 19 years old. … he was murdered on June 30, 2018,” Tripp said. “I’m just trying to get justice for my son. He didn’t have any kids. I’m a proud mother. I just want to find out who did this to my son.”
Tripp said the memorial event and other services offered by CVAC are a comfort to her.
“It’s a great help with support,” she said. “We all need support.”
Some of the support CVAC provides beyond the annual memorial service includes individual and group grief counseling, explaining the legal system and support for those facing a murder suspect in court.
Sunday’s main event was a special service in the church’s sanctuary where loved ones stepped up to microphones and read their loved ones’ names before a candle was lit and a bell was rung. CVAC also revealed the newest plaque memorializing the names of 2018’s murder victims. There were well over 100 from the metro area and more than 20 from Cobb County.
CVAC Community Advocate Candace Sims, who herself lost a son to violence, said the event is a chance for crime victims to “mix and mingle with each other, to cry together, to laugh together, and also to remember together those who were lost.”