SAN DIEGO – The community gathered Saturday for the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims.
The Survivors of Violent Loss Program and the Cara Knott Foundation invited family members of murder victims to come together and honor their loved ones.
The group of men, women and children know how fragile life is and what the dark really looks like. They share a bond, tied together by the murders of loved ones, “but nobody knows how they lived and that’s very important to us,” Dayna Herroz said.
Herroz organized the annual ceremony and began doing so after her 22-year-old daughter Tori Vienneau and 10-month-old grandson were killed in 2006 at the hands of her daughter’s ex-boyfriend.
“She was coming into her own and Dean was just this ball of love that we didn’t know we were missing until he came into our lives. And for 10 months we had an angel. That’s the way we look at him. He was an angel that came to earth to take his mommy home,” Herroz said.
The River of Remembrance Ceremony is designed to let family members talk about the lives of their loved ones, rather than the loss.
Herroz and others capture life’s beauty be creating works of art on rocks and laying them down as a memorial. Others made t-shirts with messages of love for the violent crime victims.
Larry Edwards lost his parents more than 30 years ago. The FBI said it was murder, but a killer was never prosecuted because there was not enough evidence.
Edwards still finds a way to go on though.
“[I] remember their lives without dwelling on their deaths,” he said.
Edwards also found it therapeutic to write about his experience and penned a best-selling book. ‘Dare I Call it Murder?’ is available online and his efforts to help others by telling his story also earned him a 2014 Pulitzer Prize nomination.
All of the family members at Saturday’s ceremony shared meals, memories and above all inspired one another to go on after loss.
“When you’re at the darkest moment, all you can think about is your child, what he did, how it happened. Where did he go? Why did it happen?” Denise Saunders said.
Her son, Michael Taylor was just 15-years-old when he and 17-year-old Monique Palmer were gunned down in 2008. She found justice when 22-year-old Frederick Garcia Cruz pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder.
Now, she find’s strength in others.
“It still goes on. Believe me, there’s not a dull moment of the day that I don’t think about my son,” Saunders said.
But instead of thinking about how he died, she can remember how he lived.