More than 100 red bows were affixed to 6-foot-tall tree Wednesday in the Frank E. Merriweather Jr. Library, allowing local family members to commemorate the lives of their loved ones cut short by homicide.
Those remembered included 46 people murdered in Buffalo this year, victims of homicides in Buffalo from previous years, and the 27 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that occurred Friday in Newtown, Conn.
“The reason I keep doing it is because I think that it’s important for people who have endured the loss of a friend or family member to know that they’re not alone, and that there are other people who care about their loss,” said Karla Thomas, who organized the ninth annual gathering.
“I believe that with the Newtown tragedy, so many people who have endured losses this year, the whole nation, everybody is devastated by that,” Thomas said.
She also mentioned the higher number of homicides in Buffalo compared with last year.
Erie County Legislature Chairman Betty Jean Grant placed a bow on the tree in honor of her husband’s niece, Shatina Grant, who was 15 when she was found murdered July 11, 2008, on Koons Avenue.
“They didn’t find [out] who did it. It’s been four years, and it’s still a cold case right now,” Grant said.
“I can sympathize with those mothers in Newtown, Connecticut,” she added. “To lose a child … who is supposed to outlive you, it’s just so heartbreaking.”
Patricia Bozeman, a retired auto plant worker, honored four family members who were victims of homicide, including her mother, sister and brother.
“I will soon be 64 years old,” she said. “I’m the first one in my family to get anywhere near 40 [years old]. My mother was killed in 1960. They found her body in a house in Detroit, Michigan. We were living in Alabama, and to this day we don’t know where she’s buried, because we were kids at the time. “Then my sister was killed in 1977. My first cousin shot her. In 1980, my brother’s girlfriend shot him in the stomach and killed him. In 1981, my brother and another guy were gambling and [the guy] shot and killed him, and burned up his body,” she said.
“I just thank God that I am able to stand and carry on.”
Retired Buffalo Public School teacher Eva Doyle paid homage to a former student of hers who was murdered by a boyfriend.
“Thank you, Miss Thomas, for doing this for our community, because it means so much to the families and to the community, in general,” said Doyle. “As a former kindergarten teacher and Head Start teacher, my heart really ached because those [young victims] were just babies.
“I remember when I was a kindergarten teacher, I would have to hold in my arms some of the children when they came to school at the beginning of the year because they didn’t want to leave their parents. … Oh, I could not imagine the horror that occurred on that day in Connecticut when those babies were killed.”