Scores of white balloons pierced the night sky on Monday evening, illuminating the tearfully upturned faces of over 300 survivors who had gathered for what President Samuel Oliver referred to as “a walk of solidarity” at the annual Remember Me event.
Remember Me is a commemorative event for families who have lost loved ones to homicide, put on by Professor of Social Work and Director of MSW Program Nita Mehr, along with Professor of Social Work Theresa Blakely who, themselves, have both lost loved ones to homicide.
“This is meant to be a healing event for those who are grieving,” said Mehr. “We want to speak to their loss and provide an atmosphere where they can feel supported and commemorate loved ones.”
At the event, survivors enjoyed dinner which was donated by a local church, special music performed by Music Professor Julie Glosson and a keynote address delivered by community members Norma and Cliff Ellington who lost their son Jerome to homicide in 2009, and have since taken a strong stand against homicide here in Jackson.
“Homicide is a crime that no one likes to talk about,” said Ellington, looking out at a room of grieving families like her own, many of them clutching pictures of their loved ones and nodding in understanding. “It is a tragedy that no one thinks is going to happen to them until it does. It is something you never get over. You never get closure, you just learn to live with it. I choose to live my life in hope knowing that it’s what Jerome would have wanted.”
For nine consecutive years, Mehr and Blakely have facilitated the Remember Me Walk, and at this year’s event almost 350 individuals were present from all over West Tennessee. Mayor Jerry Gist and members of the Jackson Police Department were present to show their support for those grieving. The evening culminated in a candle-lit walk around the bell tower, where survivors released white balloons as symbols of hope and solidarity.
“I know the courage it took for all of you to come out tonight,” said Blakely. “Your loved ones are proud of you. They are proud of your courage, your faith and your resilience. I know what it’s like–to think you are the only one in the world who knows how it feels to lose someone you love. But I am asking you to look around at all the faces here tonight and to know that you are not alone.”