Annual vigil honors victims of crime

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

LAWRENCEVILLE -- For Heather Strube, Shyanne Holcomb, Rico Zimmerman and 29 others who died senselessly in 2009, Tuesday night was for them.

The Gwinnett County District Attorney's Office hosted its annual Victims of Crime Candlelight Vigil at the Gwinnett County Justice and Administration Center, drawing a crowd of mourners and supporters, alike.

During the ceremony, some fought back tears. Some let them flow freely. Everyone remembered.

"One thing you should know is that you've got a support system," said Pastor Larry Wynn, who also serves as chaplain for Gwinnett's police and fire departments. "You're in the prayers of a lot of people. We need one another ... this is a night of hope ... and healing ... in the midst of hurt."

The ceremony featured music by Hebron Baptist Church's quartet, By Design, and a bagpipe rendition of "Amazing Grace."

Lighting the candle was 16-year-old Kristen Craig, who lost her father eight years ago. Stan Hall, Victim Witness Program director, said Craig hasn't missed a ceremony since she was 8. Back then, she was too short to see over the podium, Hall said, but delivered to the audience a poem, powerful and heartfelt, that he will never forget.

Tuesday night, Hall read off the names of homicide victims, each of which was followed by a bell toll. Their names were placed on a remembrance tree -- along with victims past -- where they'll stay for as long as the Victim Witness Program has anything to do with it.

Some names were accompanied by snapshots of smiling faces, others by letters from still-grieving family members.

One name tag simply reads, "Unidentified male."

But maybe someone, somewhere is missing their loved one.

"I can assure you that not only in your family, but in ours as well, they will not be forgotten," Hall said.