Friends and Family Remember 252 Slain Twin Cities Residents

Created: 12/29/2012 8:20 PM KSTP.com By: Mark Saxenmeyer

252 names.

That's how many were called out Saturday, during a service to remember Twin Cities residents who've been murdered in the last five years.

The memorial in north Minneapolis wasn't designed to find answers to stop the violence, or to try solve the ongoing problem. It was more about helping survivors find a way to move through their grief, and their anger.

For some the pain is still raw, for some the anger is still powerful, for others, regret and reflection.

Preachers talked about how untreated grief and trauma leads to a vicious, never-ending cycle. Said Rev. Randolph Staten of Operation Resurrection, "And nobody does anything about it and that trauma then turns to hate and that hate turns to violence."

But then came Mary Johnson, a mother who wears a necklace with the photo of her son on one side, and perhaps surprisingly, a photo of her son's killer on the other. She told this crowd about the power, and the necessity, of forgiveness.

"Because you know what, UN-forgiveness is like a cancer. It's a root of bitterness that eats you from the inside out," Johnson said. "Me hating him didn't do nothing to him. it was hurting ME." She paused, and added, "So, forgiveness, it's for YOU."

Perhaps even more surprisingly, Johnson now lives next door to her son's killer, who was convicted in 1993. When he was released from prison after 17 years, the two reconciled to a point where they actually travel the country now, speaking about the healing power of forgiveness.

Safe to say that many of the people at Saturday's service, however, aren't quite there yet.

Some of the names being read (of the 252 victims of violence) made headlines when they died. Some are remembered only by those who knew them best.

"It's not even a front page story anymore," said Rev. Jerry McAfee, the pastor of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church where the service was held. "But it's not the responsibility of the news for us to make it big news. That's our responsibility as a community. We gotta make sure that that behavior is not acceptable."

Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at msaxenmeyer@kstp.com