As Judy Williams counted down, more than 100 people released purple balloons into the sky above uptown Charlotte on Sunday.
For the people gathered in Frazier Park – mothers and fathers, siblings and friends of Charlotte homicide victims – the balloons and the cards attached to them were symbolic. They ascended to a place where, families hoped, their dead relatives were watching.
Williams, who founded Mothers of Murdered Offspring two decades ago, said the annual ceremony, which takes place at the beginning of each new year, is a moment of comfort for those who have lost loved ones.
“You know homicide makes us a family,” Williams said. “And as a family, we’re going to continue to help you along this road you’re on.”
But when the balloons return to earth, family members hope others in the community will be touched by the words on the cards attached: “Please help comfort their family by reporting where this balloon landed.”
They include the phone number of a surviving family member and the date a person was killed.
Those who gathered were a cross-section of the Charlotte community. They included people who’ve been grieving murdered loved ones for decades and others who just marked their first holiday without a son or daughter.
“We’ve come here every year, just to remember him and to help keep his memory alive,” said Chester Brooks, whose son, Alan, was killed in June 2003. “You realize that other people have been in your same position. That helps because you think you’re alone sometimes.”
Josephine Deas-Thomas, whose brother, Richard Deas, was killed in 2007, said she hopes the gathering of weeping loved ones has an impact on the community at large, especially those who are thinking about committing an act of violence.
“I just pray that they would think before they pull that trigger,” she said, “that they would think of the aftermath. The family and friends are that are going to suffer.”
Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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