Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was among the attendees at a Monday memorial honoring some 260 Chicago Public School students killed by violence during the last three school years.
The vigil at St. Sabina's Catholic Parish in the city's Auburn Gresham neighborhood was the first of five memorials scheduled throughout the city during the next week by Urban Dolorosa (or the "Sorrowing City"), an organization that for the last three years has memorialized Chicago victims of youth violence with an outpouring of poetry, music and other performances in their honor.
The Rev. Susan Johnson pastor of Hyde Park Union Church and founder of Urban Dolorosa, described the vigils' mission to the Chicago Tribune.
"When we talk about gun-wielding teenagers and we ask ourselves as clergy: 'What can I do?' I think people don't feel they have much to offer," Johnson said. "We can't live thinking the blood is on our hands. I'm just trying to make these children less invisible."
Addressing the packed church assembled for the event, Emanuel said, "I want you to know your city is with you, you are not alone." The mayor is known for personally calling the family of each young victim of gun violence, most recently a 10-year-old boy shot in the leg on his way home from trick-or-treating on the city's Northwest Side on Monday night.
"I've seen the promise of Chicago, this is a strong city, a loving city and a caring city," the mayor said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. "I want everybody to know in this city, if there is gun violence, it is not over there. It is not down there. If it happens in our city, it is part of your community regardless of where of you live."
Among the many community members assembled to grieve and mourn the loss of loved ones was Anjanette Albert, the mother of Fenger High School student Derrion Albert, who was violently beaten to death during a gang fight outside his school in the fall of 2009. She told NBC Chicago that she was comforted by the vigil.
"It's just really good no one's forgotten us," she said.