Close to 150 people gathered the evening of Dec. 10 at St. Martin de Porres Church to remember those who died by gunfire in the Louisville community this year.
Among those who attended the Interfaith Service Remembering Victims of Gun Violence was Dean Walker, whose life was impacted by gun violence twice.
Walker said his two children died by gunfire two years ago. His 20-year-old daughter Savannah Walker was killed by a stray bullet during a concert in March of 2017.
“It shouldn’t have happened,” said Walker. “She was just at a concert.”
In the fall of that same year his 27-year-old son Nathaniel Walker, who’d suffered from mental illness and addiction, committed suicide using a gun, he said.
Walker said his wife had died after battling cancer shortly before his daughter was killed. For Nathaniel, the loss of his mother and sister “weighed heavily on him,” said Walker.
The Dec. 10 remembrance service is important, he said. “It’s important for me to remember. I come here, too, to support the people who’ve gone through the same pain I’ve gone through.”
Walker said he recently joined the local chapter of the national group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America — whose mission is to advocate for safer gun laws and an end to gun violence.
The group is advocating for the passage of red flag laws, which would allow family members or law enforcement officials to seek permission from a court to temporarily remove firearms from individuals who may be a danger to themselves or others.
“I believe he (Nathaniel) would be alive today had there been red flag laws,” said Walker.
“Moms Demand Action is working for responsible gun ownership. We want to work with gun owners to stop gun violence,” he said.
During the service, the names of victims were read aloud as 86 candles were lit — one for each person killed this year in Louisville, organizers said. The reading of names is a traditional part of the annual service.
Among those who read the names of victims was Rose Smith. She noted during the service that her youngest son, Cory Crowe, was shot and killed in 2014 and his name was included on that year’s list.
Not long after her son was killed she happened to see a news story about the annual memorial service and heard her son’s name read aloud.
It filled her with “joy,” she said.
“They remembered my baby,” said Smith. “I know what it feels like to have your child remembered.”
Smith said it was an “honor” to be there that night reading the names of others who’d died this year.
Shortly after Crowe was killed Smith said she started a non-profit — Acting Compassionately Everyday (ACE) — to mentor young people in the community. Smith shared that she now owns the building which stands at 25th and Standard Streets where her son was killed. That building houses the ACE group.
Leaders from the Jewish, Buddhist, Islamic and Baha’i faith communities joined Catholics and leaders from other Christian denominations in offering prayers for victims during the service.
Father Randall Hubbard, pastor of St. Martin de Porres, thanked the congregation for remembering those who’ve died as a result of gun violence.
The service was sponsored by the Archdiocese of Louisville Office of Multicultural Ministry, the Kentucky chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and metro government’s Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods.