MODESTO — A vigil, a service and a concert each sought its own way to quell the anger and heal the wounds of senseless violence on Saturdays one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.
The morning vigil at Five Points at the foot of McHenry Avenue for shooting victims focused on gun violence and raising awareness of the need for action. Last years Connecticut school shooting was on the mind of Carole Stark of the Brady Bill Campaign, as she led a small group with signs that said Sandy Hook We cant forget! senseless loss and Stop gun violence.
Were here to remember the children and staff, to remember every victim of gun violence, Stark said, voicing frustration at the lack of legislation for universal background checks for firearm sales.
Nothing has happened. Its been a year, and Congress has done nothing, she said. Its just appalling. Our nation is better than this.
Susan Levy, mother of murder victim Chandra Levy, drove home the point. Violence is violence, no matter what. Thats why Im here, said Levy, whose daughter was murdered in 2001 in Washingtons Rock Creek Park.
The afternoon service at First Christian Methodist Episcopal Church included a Violence Prevention Banquet with praise and worship service and a tribute to west Modesto families who have lost members to violent crime. Gospel songs and praise dances alternated with poetry readings and prayers.
Among those in attendance were the family of 2-year-old Yajaira Mendez, killed in April on her scooter by a drunken driver just two blocks from the church.
The Rev. Wanda Johnson-Moore, mother of an unarmed black man killed by a white Bay Area transit officer, gave the keynote speech.
Johnson-Moore, now living in Tracy, told of the death of her son Oscar Grant at the Fruitvale BART Station on Jan. 1, 2009. She spent New Years Eve, her birthday, with her son and asked him to not drive that night.
I thought my son would minister with me, she said. But with his death, she has come to believe God had a different plan for her son. The death raised concerns of law enforcement excesses, she said. Hes still ministering to people all over the world, she said, through the Oscar Grant Foundation.
The African American community is in a crisis, she said, with more than half of men 18 to 30 years old in prison. More in the community need to go into law enforcement, government and teaching professions, she said.
We are in a dying society, Johnson-Moore said. The killing has to stop, she said, But we dont have to strike the way the world strikes. We strike the way God strikes through peace.
Pastor Victor Travis said the event was designed to reach out to the families. At the time of a tragic loss, theres so much attention and media attention on the day. Now were going into the holidays, and we wanted to show the family members that the church is here for them. God has a plan for their life, Travis said.
The evening tribute to Sandy Hook victims featured a performance of The Mass of the Children at Trinity United Presbyterian Church. Bell ringers rang out the 26 names of those killed at the Connecticut elementary school on Dec. 14, 2012.
The Trinity Koinonia Choir joined with community singers, a community orchestra and the Johansen High Valkyrie Voices for a musical tribute to the 20 children and six women gunned down by Adam Lanza with an assault rifle. Conductor Ginger Covert Colla said a videotape of the Modesto event would be sent to the Connecticut families.
The evening opened with Mozart, followed by The Mass of the Children by John Rutter, weaving English poems with Latin and Greek Mass text. Bells rang with a recitation of victims names, followed by Vivaldis In Memoria Aeterna.
Sing Me to Heaven, closed the musical performance.