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LELAND—There was hope and there was strength.
And Friday night at the 17th Annual Justice for Citizens Vigil there was rememberance.
“While God has a plan, sometimes criminals have a plan too,” District Attorney Jon David said as he welcomed the audience for the candlelight memorial service on Friday, Nov. 19, at First Baptist Church of Leland. “It is hard enough to deal with loss, but how much worse is it when our loved ones are taken by the criminal acts of someone else? It’s a whole new level.”
Several hundred people gathered to remember the lives of their loved ones lost to homicide, domestic violence and drunk driving. The event was co-sponsored by Justice for Citizens and the D.A.’s Homicide Support Group.
“Nobody wants to be the recipient of a phone call that says your loved one is dead, but most of us in this room already have been,” said Shequena Sidberry, Voice of a Victim guest speaker.
Sidberry lost her sister Tarica Ann Pulliam to domestic violence on Aug. 6, 2008. Pulliam, 27, was a New Hanover County detention officer.
“Crime has no discrimination. It happens to the best of us. Tarica worked hard,” Sidberry said. “Use her story to inspire. I encourage all of you to take the cherished memories of your loved ones and not the tragedies to uplift us all…Hopefully one day we won’t have to celebrate the lives of future homicides. We have to end violence and crime.”
As candles representing hope, justice, strength, unity, understanding, healing, compassion, peace, success and future were lit, Kory Williford, Justice for Citizens member, said, “With hope, justice and strength, with understanding and compassion, with unity, peace and success we have a promising future.”
Seventeen years after beginning the candlelight service, founder Birdie Frink said she would be stepping down from organizing the annual event. Frink began the service in the year following the brutal murder of her 18-year-old daughter Amy Frink in 1994.
“Seventeen years ago there wasn’t as much awareness,” David said. “Birdie Frink looked outward to say, ‘How can I help others?’ Tonight is bittersweet as it marks the last time Birdie Frink will organize this event. This event will live on. We will carry the torch forward.”
Frink was honored for her dedication to victims’ rights and for selflessly helping others.
“Keep fighting for victims’ rights. Everyone out there who is fighting for the victims’ rights, I want to thank them. They are the heroes. You are the hero,” Frink said.
One by one more than 125 names were called out. Family members and loved ones rose from their seats and walked to the front of the church and placed a flower on the altar to honor and remember the memory of victims.
N.C. Highway Patrolman Joe Memory shared a message of hope.
“When I saw those come down tonight, I saw tears and I saw anguish. Don’t take this burden and blame yourself. It’s not your fault. Take comfort,” Memory said.
Memory spoke about fear, anguish, anxiety and finding hope in God.
“What I fear is working that night (slain police officer) Mitch Prince was killed. I was there,” he said. “I relive these things, as do you. Take confidence in Christ. Our fears may be different. Our anguish may be different…when you forgive, you have hope. When you forgive, you have love. Forgiveness brings joy.”
The service concluded with the lighting of candles. One by one candles were lit and raised toward the sky as victims’ families came together as one to remember their losses and to light the world with their memories.
Rachel Johnsonis a staff writer at The Brunswick Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email@example.com.