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Homicide survivors come together to remember their loved ones

Posted at 10:21 PM, Sep 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-26 01:21:28-04

The violent loss of a loved one brings pain and trauma. But tonight, hundreds of people came together in Reid Park to celebrate National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims. The day was officially established by Congress in 2007.

Sights, smells, sounds -- they can trigger the most cherished memories. 

"A certain song comes on, a certain scent catches your nose," Michael Katz said.

Coping with death can prove to be very difficult. Generally, people will come up and apologize and offer their condolences. But when someone murders a loved one? That may be a different story.

"It's a nightmare that I keep living over and over," Shirley Lovell said. "It seems like I just haven't woke up."

Homicide Survivors executive director Vanessa Helms explained people often don't know how to react when they find out about a person getting killed. They think avoiding speaking the person's name may help, or avoiding the subject all together. But she said that can actually make it harder on survivors. 

"The survivors say, we're thinking about it anyway. It's with us every second of every day," Helms said. "And so, it's helpful  if you acknowledge it."

Mary Seagle is the sister of Kay Read, who vanished in 2008. Earlier in the month, Luis Vargas was convicted of murdering her. Yet Seagle says openly talking about Kay makes her stronger.

"It just, gives me ammunition to start talking," she said. "So, don't be on eggshells, just open up your heart, and let it flow."

Michael Katz's sister was murdered 8 years ago. Ever since, he gone to this event. But to him, the event is just a small part of the bigger picture. He thinks it helps create a special community and a support system.

"As an outsider, you may not kind of see that type of bond and connection happening," Katz said. "Whereas being a survivor, you feel it. You just kind of feel the vibes in the air, and it's heart warming."

Lovell's son was murdered two years ago in broad daylight. Missing one of the most important pieces of her life, she lives with a hole in her heart. However, as a part of this unique, tight-knit community, she doesn't feel alone.

"The love is the key, and it will help you to heal," she said. "The pain will always be there, but we learn how to live with it."