HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — A Harrisburg group of faith organizations is trying to remember and honor the victims of gun violence.
As part of their efforts, a section of N Front Street in front of Beth El Temple is now lined with nearly 90 T-shirts. Each represents someone who died due to gun violence going back to 2017.
“Precious lives are being lost,” Gerald Rhoades, vice-chair of Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence, said.
The memorial is a sobering reminder of rising gun violence in the Harrisburg area.
“We’ve had so many gun deaths already this year,” Rhoades said.
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Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence brings together various faith organizations to end violence. Rhoades said part of their work includes advocating for gun control legislation.
“We also work with youth, helping them learn better ways to handle conflict,” he said.
The group erected the memorial Sunday along Front Street, honoring gun violence victims of the last five years.
“I can look at the names and remember meeting their relatives,” Ann Van Dyke, who painted the shirts, said.
Van Dyke keeps track of local gun violence victims and paints shirts for the memorial, recording the names, ages and death dates of each victim. The victims are often young people, including a child just seven years old.
“It’s real hard to hold all those names, but we must,” Van Dyke said.
The memorial is a call for the public to take action.
“Hopefully then they’ll be asking, ‘What can we do?'” Rhoades said.
It is also directed at government officials.
“I also hope that it’s startling enough to our legislature that they will pass reasonable gun safety legislation,” Van Dyke said.
However, the memorial is also for victims’ families, to remind them their loved ones are not forgotten.
“I have not lost a son or a daughter, so I need to do it on behalf of those people who have,” Van Dyke said.
The memorial will be up until May 9.
Heeding God’s Call is also holding a march to the memorial on May 1 for Gun Violence Awareness and Prevention Day. The march will start at 3 p.m. at Kingdom Embassy church on 4th and Maclay Street and end at the memorial on Front Street.