Local Vigil honors victims of violence

by Shawn Nowlin

Roanoke’s “Grace to Remember” vigil was held on Dec. 5.

For many, December is a month when families get together, exchange gifts and make memories that will last for a lifetime. For Corey Henson, it represents the month that he lost his older brother and best friend to gun violence. For the first few years after experiencing the tragic loss in 2012, Henson had a difficult time processing his grief, especially during the holiday season. 

From personal experience, Henson wants people to know that the effects of trauma can reverberate for several years. “While my parents did a great job of making sure we had a roof over our head and food in the fridge, they weren’t necessarily equipped with the tools needed to effectively discuss things like mental health and how to properly channel your emotions when tragedy strikes,” Henson said.

He added, “It wasn’t until I was well into my 40s that I had the resources to deal with trauma and the confidence to overcome any mental obstacle in my life.”

When the Roanoke City Sheriff’s Office held a  “Grace to Remember” vigil on December 5 to honor victims of gun violence, Henson was present. The gathering provided an opportunity for families impacted by violence to share memories of their loved ones. An emotional day for all, in addition to powerful speeches, the vigil also included the reading of names of those who lost their lives to violence.

Among those who spoke were Amy Girty, whose son Markel was killed four years ago, as well as Rita Joyce, the co-founder of FEDUP, an acronym for Families Expecting Deliverance Using Prayer.

“We never want to get so caught up in the hustle-bustle of the season that we forget our loved ones, the kids who never got a chance to reach their full potential. The purpose of this event is to show the community that the law enforcement community does indeed care,” Sheriff Antonio Hash said to attendees.

After the vigil, ornaments were placed on the Roanoke City Sheriff’s Office remembrance tree by families who also took similar ornaments home for the holidays.

For those who recently lost their loved ones, this is one of the most challenging times of the year. This is why explained to Henson, it is important to create space for the community to process and mourn tragedies such as the recent candlelight vigil.