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Nine New Names of Young Victims to Violence Added to Memorial Site

7:56 AM, Oct 19, 2010   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. --  Songs filled the air at Terry Parker High School for more than 200 young people killed by violence. 

It's becoming a growing list of pictures and names to display.  14-year-old Horace Lee James  is one of the newest.
    
"My only son," said his mother Chontel Gergar, "it's hard."

James was shot and killed last month outside a teen party in Arlington.  Gergar is still in disbelief.

She said, "I can't sleep.  I wake up and yell out his name so I'm going through it."

She doesn't have to go through it alone.  At the Unity Plaza at Terry Parker High, her son, along with dozens of other children and teenagers are remembered with their names etched in stone.
    
"It's a lot of names, a lot of young people," said Glen Mitchell, of The Jeff Mitchell Foundation Compassionate Families, Inc.

Mitchell can relate to the pain. His son Jeff was killed during an attempted armed robbery on the Terry Parker campus in 1993.

"It's something that I don't know any of us here can find the understanding in," said Mitchell.    

Mitchell designed and helped create the 6,000 square foot Unity Plaza to serve as a memorial to his son and other young crime victims.  Every year, families join together to hear their loved one's names and light candles.    

"It's just to keep hope alive, to encourage each other and keep it going," said Lisa Burney, who lost three family members to violence.    

Nine new names were added to the memorial this year including 16-year-old Tiphne Hollis who was killed in a drive-by shooting, 16-year old Kevin and 11-year-old Katie Whitelaw who were killed by their father in a double-murder suicide and Somer Thompson, who was kidnapped and killed in 2009.

"We have to love everybody and get along because it's too much violence going on these days," said Gergar.

Gergar finds some comfort in knowing that her son's name has a permanent place.  She plans to come by often.

"Everyday, because I even said if I go to the graveyard, I may end up digging his grave up.  That's just how painful it is," said Gergar.   

This was the 15th Annual Candlelight Vigil at Unity Plaza.  Glen Mitchell said although the list is growing, he has seen fewer names of young victims being added in recent years.

He and his wife are using their foundation named after their son Jeff to work with teenagers, helping them stay motivated in school and not resort to violence.

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