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Mothers and community members gather to remember and heal.
Tears were shed and shared as mother Nena Olmedo spoke about her son Leo Alvarado.
“He was only 19. It’s been really hard for me. I miss him dearly. He was a wonderful person.
He had the most beautiful smile,” said Olmedo through a breaking voice.
Alvarado, who died in 2011, was one of the many victims of gang violence who was remembered on Friday at the Mothers United Against Gang Violence Candlelight Vigil at Myers Funeral Home. After a song of worship and a candlelit procession attendees gathered in a circle.
Pastor Lloyd Johnson, of the Porterville Christian Community Church, talked about men taking responsibility.
“Fathers, brothers, it’s time for you to step up and let these mothers know that we’re the head not the tail,” said Johnson.
After a prayer, Mary Martinez of MUAGV talked about how the night was not only for remembering, but for healing.
“I wish to thank you all for coming tonight. We are survivors,” Martinez said. As the mic was passed from mother to mother, sobs could be heard.
Irma Vasquez could barely make it through her speech as she described in a choked voice how losing her son Vincent Ramirez in 2005 has affected her.
“There’s not one day I don’t miss him. I would never wish for some parent to go through this,” Vasquez said.
A fourth mother, Tammy Mitchell, did not speak but had a poem read about her son, Michael Avalos, who was killed in September.
After the sharing, a second prayer and blessing was offered.
Standing outside the circle near the memorial trees was Jessica Reyes-Garza, who lost one brother and a good friend to gang violence. Her brother Eric Reyes was a victim of gang violence and lost his life in 2011. Her friend Michael Avalos died in September, his charred remains discovered in a burned out car.
“It made me think about not forgetting them, and hopefully we change other people,” Reyes-Garza said.
Another attendee, Maricela Sandoval, came to remember her cousin Francisco Martinez.
“Hopefully, people can see what’s going on,” said Sandoval.
Martinez thought it went well.
“Though tears were shed, some healing took place too,” said Martinez.