The Cherokee Judicial Circuit’s National Day of Remembrance Ceremony has turned into a virtual offering today due to COVID-19.
“For the past nine years, the Cherokee Judicial Circuit has held an annual National Day of Remembrance Ceremony to honor those lives lost to homicide,” said Lauren Evans, Victim Assistance director for the Cherokee Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office. “This year would have marked 10 years since our first remembrance ceremony held on Sept. 25, 2011.
“We usually have approximately 75 people in attendance. Due to the circumstances of the pandemic, our circuit decided against holding a gathering of that magnitude. Instead, we have worked hard to create a remembrance website to give those families the opportunity to pay tribute to their loved ones from the safety of their own homes.”
Designated by Congress, Sept. 25 became the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims in 2007. Along with information about the observance, https://cjcdayofremembrance.com also features memorials for 140 homicide victims.
“Unfortunately, due to the nature of what we do, we see a lot of tragic crimes, but by observing these photos and seeing these names, it creates another level of emotion and empathy you feel for the families who have suffered this unimaginable loss,” Evans said. “The photos give you something tangible to visualize, forming a deeper connection to that victim and their family.”
All of those who are featured on the website lived in Bartow and Gordon counties, except for three.
“These three individuals were family members of someone who is a resident of Bartow County,” Evans said. “This person was actually the one who approached Julia, at the time, 10 years ago to inquire about doing something to honor victims of murder.
“As a way to pay homage, we have always included them with our circuit. Those three individuals lived in Missouri at the time they were murdered in 2009.”
This year’s virtual offering is dedicated to Evans’ predecessor Julia Richards, who died in April. As Evans noted, Richards spearheaded the Cherokee Judicial Circuit’s first National Day of Remembrance Ceremony in 2011.
According to https://cjcdayofremembrance.com, “Julia shaped so much of what the Victim Assistance Program is to this day. Julia left a lasting impact on the victims she served, her community and all the lives she touched. She will forever be missed, but the ripple she left behind will carry on.”
For Richards, it was important to bring the focus back to the victims.
“The annual National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims gives all of us the opportunity to remember those lost to homicide and honor their memories,” Richards told The Daily Tribune News before the 2015 ceremony. “The purpose of this day of remembrance is to focus on the impact of murder on families and communities and ways that we can support and serve the survivors of the victims.
“So we feel it’s important, because when somebody is murdered all of the attention seems to go to the defendant — the trial and everything — and this is a time for us to be able to just give all of our focus to the victim and to the family members of those victims. We just want to let people in the community know that their loved ones are not forgotten about, that they’re important to us, and they’ll always be important to us.”
Through the National Day of Remembrance, Evans hopes the online memorial will generate awareness and inspire the public to offer support to the victims’ loved ones.
“Murder is a sad reality of life for some and though no one wants to think it can happen in their own town, it can and it does,” she said. “For me, the National Day of Remembrance raises awareness that there are families out there who are grieving from lives who were taken too soon. This day gives the community the opportunity to provide support and unity to those still hurting during this time.”