Silence filled St. Paul's Episcopal Church as the names of the crime victims in Onondaga County over the past year were read out loud. Tears streamed down they faces of some of the dozens in attendance, as they remembered their loved ones.
That was the scene at the 20th annual Crime Victims' Ceremony on Montgomery Street in Syracuse. It featured remarks by ministers like the Very Reverend G. Thomas Luck and Minister Mark Muhammed, speakers who told their story of either being a victim or the family of a victim of a crime and music by the Syracuse Gay and Lesbian Chorus and Amazing Grace sung by Marsha Hagen.
Candles were lit, representing memories, courage, hope and grief. But, the most moving part of the program were the words of guest speaker Sayeh Rivazfar, who told the story of how she was raped as an 8-year-old, with her little sister Sarah being killed during the same crime. While the crime happened in Florida, Rivazfar is a New York State Trooper living in Rochester today, and has made it her mission to spread awareness about crimes like this, and raise hope for those struggling with loss.
"I know this makes an impact," Rivazfar, who says the memory of her little sister is her driving force, says. "I know this makes people, aware, wow, you can survive, you can move on, and you can live a very happy life, and keep that loved one in a very positive light."
Makeba Bean, a Syracuse resident, also spoke about how crime affected her family. In 1991, her grandfather was murdered, in 2002, her cousin was murdered and in 2010 her brother was killed. The loss she has experienced is something she says she hopes does not happen to anyone else.
"I just want the violence to stop," she says. "It's such a tragedy and I don't want anyone to go through what I went through."
Bean says she thinks change can happen only if the youth of Syracuse get on board, and she admitted she was disappointed that there were not more young people at the ceremony on Wednesday evening. But, Ed Mitchell, the founder and C.E.O. of Team A.N.G.E.L., a place the youth of Syracuse can go to get help and communicate what their problems are, spoke about how communication needs to be prevalent in society, something Rivazfar agreed with.
"That's a huge step," Rivazfar says. "Being able to talk about it, and making people aware."
The victims and the families of the victims were also pleased to see political representation at the vigil. Syracuse police chief Frank Fowler, Assistant United States Attorney John Katko and Onondaga County Assistant District Attorney Pastor Jeremy Cali were all in attendance.