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CHICAGO (WLS) — Standing tall outside the Daley Center is a glowing Tree of Remembrance, honoring over 2,000 victims of Chicago violence.
The holidays can serve as a tough reminder for those missing family members this year.
Renee Parson Bell lost both her son and nephew, who were killed just months apart.
“I miss them to death. Both of them. Holidays are just not the same anymore,” Bell said.
It’s a pain Sherri Nolen and Sheena Stone know, too.
“This is a happy time for others, but it’s a sad time for us,” said Nolen, who lost a son to violence.
“This is a sisterhood, a familyhood, that nobody really wants to belong to. But we all were forced into it. So it’s always good to be around people who kind of share the same experiences,” added Stone, who also lost a son to violence.
Maxwell Emcays, the founder of Never Forget Chicago, brings these families with the same shared experience together for a night of remembrance.
“So many families fall through the cracks and get forgotten, and they continue to grieve and hurt in silence,” Emcays said.
The families were given gift bags with customized shirts of their loved ones and personalized ornaments in the shape of snowflakes that decorate the tree.
“This is kind of what we are about, kind of like what the City of Chicago is about – or supposed to be about, anyways – is showing each other love,” Stone said.
Just as no two snowflakes are the same, every life is different and unique, and should be cherished and respected.
“Too often, we get caught in numbers and statistics, and we forget that these are human lives. These are children and these are families that are grieving, these are broken communities,” ,Emcays said.
Through remembrance, he said, there is unity, healing and, most importantly, change.
“Love your loved ones. Tell them you love them, kiss them every day. Show them that you missed them, because once they are gone, they’re gone. They can’t come back or all you have is memories. And memories hurt,” Bell said.
The tree will stay up and glowing outside the Daley Center throughout December.