Group honors victims of gun violence in ‘deadliest year’ since their founding


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence has been hosting vigils in the Harrisburg area since 2009. According to the group, 2019 has been the deadliest year since they started organizing memorials and vigils, with 20 lives lost to gun violence.

Tuesday, dozens of community members and families who have lost a loved one gathered at Wesley Union AME Zion Church in Uptown Harrisburg, making a call to put down the guns and pick up one another.

“Our family will never be the same, never!” said Rev. Tonette Lee, whose nephew Jerron Lewis was shot and killed in July in Allison Hill.

“We don’t know why, we have no answers,” said Lewis’ grandmother, Joy Lewis, who says her family is still in the dark about who took her grandson’s life. “He’s just on our mind all the time. It wasn’t like he was sick, he was snatched from us.”

Lewis’ family came to the vigil to honor his memory but to also ask anyone with information to come forward.

“If you know about it, then you’re just as much a coward as they are,” Lewis said.

“If they know about any of them that wasn’t solved, people need to speak up because families are hurting and we need closure,” said Jerron’s mother, Yolanda Lewis.

The yard in front of the church was filled with colored T-shirts on makeshift stands, each one representing a life lost to gun violence.

One of the shirts had Lisa Piper’s son’s name on it: Sean Jackson. He was killed in Dec. 2018.

“It’s not easy losing a loved one,” said Piper, who said she wanted to be there for families whose wounds are still fresh. “We need to learn how to cope and use other methods instead of guns.”

“It does not matter your religious background or affiliation because when one of us hurts, we all hurt,” Pastor David Miller said.

Since the Harrisburg chapter of Heeding God’s Call formed 10 years ago, they’ve counted 142 people killed by gun violence in the greater Harrisburg region.

It’s the group’s hope that through prayer, education, and discussion, disagreements can be settled differently.

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