WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - On Friday night, a candlelight memorial honored homicide victims in southeastern North Carolina.
Law enforcement, first responders, victims' families, district attorneys, faith leaders, and more gathered for the 23rd Annual Homicide Memorial Service at First Presbyterian Church in Wilmington.
"There is power in coming together, and there is power in sharing experience, and that is really the magic of what this night is all about," said District Attorney Jon David.
Birdie Frink organized the first memorial service after her daughter, Amy Caroline, was murdered in June 1994.
“She was carjacked and brutally murdered,” said Frink. “When that happened, my husband and I, we just prayed and asked God to lead us in the direction that he wanted us to go.”
At this year's memorial, the names of 223 victims were read aloud.
“It’s a very special moment. We gather together as victims," Frink said. "There is no closure. There will never be closure, but being together, we support each other.”
A white rose symbolizing forgiveness was handed out to people attending on behalf of a loved one who was killed.
“We are so privileged to be the voice for victims in a courtroom,” said District Attorney Ben David. “You have lost loved ones through different crimes, some through domestic violence, others through drug cases or vehicular homicide or gang violence.”
The memorial service was held before Thanksgiving to help families who will have an empty seat at the table, said David.
“We are also here tonight united in our resolve to end violence,” David said. “We are united in our call for peace and we are going to work toward that peace.”
Three candles were lit in succession honoring fallen law enforcement, firefighters, and military.
Almira Jones shared this year’s Voice of a Victim. Jones lost her son, Larry, who was shot and killed in 2015.
"Celebrate and remember the good times our loved ones gave us," said Jones. Her son aspired to a career as a welder and was known for his sense of humor.
A projector displayed the names and pictures of each victim honored at the memorial.
“For us gathered here, seeing that on the screen, it’s a reminder, of course, and then at the same time, being where we are in the sanctuary, it’s really a healing process,” said Frink.
The event ended with a message of hope and benediction.
WECT’s Jon Evans served as emcee of the memorial service.