Victims of gun violence remembered at Kalamazoo church service

Posted at 10:22 PM, Feb 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-19 22:30:45-05

KALAMAZOO, Mich.-- Monday marks one year since a shooting rampage that forever changed Kalamazoo and all of West Michigan. Police say Jason Dalton opened fire in three different locations, killing six people and severely injuring two others.

On Sunday, ahead of a community vigil at the Wings Event Center, a ceremony was held at the Second Baptist Church with family members of people who died because of gun violence. Emotions are at an all time high this time of year, but family members of the victims say they feel this pain every day.

"Every day is the day," said Nate Hawthorne, nephew of Barbara Hawthorne. "You're not over it so it's not like tomorrow is going to be something where all of the sudden we're just going to be better."

"It's like the rest of the world goes on and we're still kind of stuck in a year ago," said Laura Hawthorne, niece of Barbara Hawthorne. "It's just something I wake up with all of the time and I go to bed with all of the time. It's with me throughout the day."

On Sunday, the Second Baptist Church in Kalamazoo held a service of remembrance and action for those victims as well as others who have lost their lives to gun violence.

"It was an opportunity to come in to see that they're not in this by themselves," Said Dr. Michael Scott, Pastor at Galilee Baptist Church. "There's a community here and even a year later we haven't forgotten. We are forgiving, but we want to take action."

Families read their loved ones names aloud, holding photos of them and lighting candles in their honor. Laurie Smith read her son and husband's names aloud, something she says is getting more difficult to do.

"It's actually getting harder," said Smith. "That's actually why I didn't stay for the rest of it because it was getting really hard for me. Just the reality of it all is really hard."

The ceremony was also a chance for the families to see that they're not alone.

"The community support that we've received is what has kept me and my family getting up everyday," said Smith. "There's that expectation out there that you're strong and in some way inspirational when we don't feel strong. We don't feel inspirational, but it's almost like you have to live up to that so it keeps you going."

Speakers also took the time during the ceremony to urge people to reach out to their local representatives to ask them for stricter gun laws. They also held a training session following the service to show gun owners how they can make their homes safer to reduce child gun deaths.