CHICAGO (CBS) — The families of murder victims filled the UIC Forum in the South Loop Saturday for a memorial ceremony sponsored by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. It was the 24th consecutive year that it has sponsored the event.
To get to the auditorium for the candlelight ceremony, the victims’ families had to pass hundred of photos that filled 111 24-by-30-inch boards. They depicted children playing, new graduates and others who were laughing, hugging and appeared full of life. All had one thing in common. Each was murdered.
The sister of one murder victim and the brother of another took center stage during the 90-minute ceremony. Lena Elayyan told the families that her mother struggled for months after a gunman killed her sister and gravely wounded her father during a hold-up in the family’s convenience store.
“My mother would wake up with her pillow saturated by her own tears,” she said.
But then, Elayyan said, her mother reached out and contributed money to her church and to a local mosque. She said by comforting others, “she comforted herself.”
Erica McKinney said she held a grudge against “every boy” she saw on a street corner following the murder of her brother D.J. outside a back-to-school party for students at Orr High School, where he played football and ran track. Then, she said, her mother told her how she coped.
“I look at it as if he’s on vacation,” she told McKinney.
McKinney said that at first, she thought her mother was “crazy” for saying that to herself and to others. Now, she said, she has adopted that view herself.
State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said the pace of murders has been relentless and called them “senseless murders — shootings upon shootings upon shootings.” But she told the families not to give up on the criminal justice system.
Some said the service helped. Michelle Hubbard left in a fog thinking about Shantelle Jones, the 26-year-old daughter she lost earlier this year.
“It was almost like her memorial service all over again, because it’s only been seven months,” she said.
Nonetheless, she said, she is pleased that the state’s attorney’s office offers such a forum.
Family members were offered breakfast, lunch and support groups in addition to the candlelight ceremony. The ceremony was open to families of murder victims in Cook County and to those who died in traffic accidents judged by prosecutors to be cases of reckless homicide.