[wzslider autoplay=”true” info=”true” lightbox=”true”]As the sun set over Union University, families who experienced homicide loss walked through rows of witnesses holding flickering candles.
The 7th annual Remember Me walk was held Sept. 29 at the Carl Grant Events Center to honor loved ones lost to homicide. Homicide loss survivors, students, members of law enforcement, victims’ advocates and more attended.
“Just being able to see and meet other people who are going through or have gone through the same thing we have gone through, it gives us strength, it lets us know we’re not alone,” said Norma Ellington, who attended with her husband Clifton.
The Ellingtons lost their son Jerome when he was 19 in a 2009 homicide. They said they hope to pass on the strength they have gained from other homicide loss survivors.
“I know that’s what our loved one Jerome would want us to do,” Norma said. “He’d want us to keep moving forward.”
The walk grew out of a support group that was a part of the Trauma, Faith and Resilience Initiative at Union University.
Theresa Blakley, professor of social work, said those in the group yearned for a way to focus on their loved ones. The line of human witnesses that loss survivors walk through means a great deal to them, Blakley said.
“They’re recognizing that we’ve had a significant loss, and we’re being strong and resilient by saying we will not allow our loved ones to be forgotten,” she said.
Both Blakley and Nita Mehr, professor of social work, are homicide loss survivors.
This year, members of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority also walked in honor of Olivia Greenlee, a Union University student who died in February.
The Proclamation choral group also sang “No More Pain,” a song composed by Dan Musselman, assistant professor of music, to honor Greenlee, who was both a member of ZTA and the Union University Singers.
Before the walk, homicide loss survivors and others gathered to listen to several speakers, including Marianne and Mike Dunavant. Marianne is a field representative for U.S. Congressman Stephen Fincher, while Mike is district attorney for the 25th judicial district of Tennessee, where he is the chief criminal prosecutor for several counties.
The couple received the “Champion of Victims’ Rights Award” from the Trauma, Faith and Resilience Initiative.
Mike Dunavant shared how he sat on all seats in the courtroom, both prosecuting and acting as defense attorney, but never understood the pain victims went through until his wife was killed in a vehicular homicide in 2008, leaving him a single father with a five-year-old son.
“While I know that homicide leaves a hole that no indictment, no verdict, no conviction, no sentence can ever fill, I want you to know that personal justice for you and your loved ones is something that I understand intimately and that I fight for every day,” he said.
Marianne Dunavant shared the story of how the first man she trusted, to whom she was engaged, was killed in a burglary.
“Everything just spiraled out of control and I didn’t know what direction to go,” she said. “I was broken. As far as I was concerned, I died with him.”
Several months after his death, she went to an event similar to the Remember Me walk. There, she saw people who had been through the same experiences and who understood her pain.
Now, she advocates for victims’ rights.
“I ask you all to come along with me,” she told the room of homicide loss survivors. “Take that pain and use it for a purpose.”