Standing amongst several dozen people, Germantown Mennonite Church Pastor Amy Yoder McGloughlin explained what called this group to Vernon Park on Saturday.
“We are called to remember,” she said.
“We are called to remember the loss, to not let these deaths be just another stain on the street, another ring of police tape, another sidewalk memorial, another line in the newspaper,” she continued.
McGloughlin was speaking of the creation of a memorial to those slain by gun violence in Philadelphia in 2012, the design of which was originally crafted by Jared Kerbel, the rector of St. Martin in the Fields Church in Chestnut Hill.
Partnering with Heeding God’s Call, a group which works with faith-based groups to protest gun violence, Kerbel put his idea into action.
It included 288 colorful T-shirts hung on crosses made of PVC piping, rebar keeping it steady in the ground. Each shirt features a victim’s name, age and date of death.
“I wanted the T-shirts to be multicolored,” said Kerbel. “I wanted each person to stand out as an individual and not have them be identified just as a group who shared the same fate.”
On display for two weeks
The memorial, which will remain in Vernon Park for the next two weeks, has already withstood hail, sleet, rain and strong winds.
It first stood in the front lawn of the Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church in February. Kerbel said he plans to send it to Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church next.
“It is our intention that the memorial will continue to travel throughout Philadelphia and [vicinity],” McGloughlin said.
For Melinda McClenic and her family, the memorial stood as a tribute to one of their own.
McClenic’s 23-year-old son Dave, a college student, was shot and killed in Feb. 2012 in an unprovoked attack while walking to his girlfriend’s house near Marion and W. Hansberry streets in Germantown. (The alleged gunman, for whose arrest a reward was issued last year, was arrested this January, according to Philadelphia police.)
“This is emotional, yet it is inspiring to know that people care about gun violence”, said a grieving mother while standing with loved ones near the T-shirt representing the loss of her son. “I hope that someone carrying a gun sees this memorial and decides to lay down their weapon. It could change somebody’s life.”
The installation has already drawn a lot of attention on Germantown Avenue from passerbys and neighbors.
“It’s comforting to know that my son’s life was not just important to me, but important to many others,” McClenic said through tears.