Hundreds gathered Thursday at Philadelphia City Hall for a candlelight vigil to mourn the loss of senior staffer Linda Rios. She was killed last week by her estranged husband who then took his own life.
City Council President Darrell Clarke remembered Rios, who served as director of human resources for City Council, as part of the City Hall family.
“We weren’t blood related, we didn’t get a chance to go to the family picnic. But when it came time to go to the doctor, we would know where to get the form,” he said. “And you felt real comfortable with having that conversation, because she had this way about her.”
Like many onstage, Clarke expressed grief for losing an accomplished co-worker, who always had a kind word for people.
“She could have been district attorney, she was that smart,” said Councilman Mark Squilla. “We were incredibly lucky to have known her.”
Council members and other officials pledged to help out Rios’ 4-year-old twin daughters, who were in the house when she was killed.
Some were still in shock.
“I didn’t expect this tragedy,” said Sharon Vaughn, chief of staff for Councilman Derek Green, who said she feels guilty for not speaking about her friend’s ongoing struggles.
“Guilt. That’s a strong emotion,” Vaughn said. “Why didn’t I tell someone? Why did I keep her secrets?”
Many in the crowd wore purple to show their support for efforts to end domestic violence. Rios’ brother, Rick Sheaffer, urged those listening to speak up if they witness abuse.
“I don’t care if you never talked to this person a day in your life, if you see something wrong, say something,” he said.
In 2017, 22 Philadelphians lost their lives to domestic violence, a 22 percent increase from 2016. Rios was the 21st such victim this year.
“Her tragic passing is a painful reminder of the impact domestic violence has on our communities,” said Mayor Jim Kenney who remembered Rios as someone who was universally liked.
Jeannine Lisitski, executive director of Women Against Abuse, urged anyone struggling — and anyone who has witnessed abuse — to call the organization’s domestic violence hotline at 1-866-723-3014
“But just being a nonjudgmental listener is an important place to start,” she said.