Balloons used to raise awareness, remember victims

By Daniel Silliman


The pale, purple balloons almost matched the color of the periwinkle sky.

Lifting off, drifting up with the breeze, they were silhouettes against cloud-puffs, then disappeared against the background of the sky, and the people said in unison, "I remember you."

There were 91 names, belonging to people murdered in Georgia in the last 12 months, during domestic-violence incidents.

Each time a name was spoken, a balloon was released, then the affirmation, "I remember you" was repeated.

"Carol Young Gresham ... I remember you."

"Tobias Favors ... I remember you."

"Sandeela Kanwal ... I remember you."

"Shawnte Wells ... I remember you ..."

On the first day of Securus House's anti-family violence campaign, a month-long effort to raise awareness and education, more than 100 people gathered in front of the Harold R. Banke Justice Center, put purple ribbons on their chests and released balloons in a quiet memorial for murdered men, women and children.

"I hope we will have the courage to do whatever is necessary to improve our lives and our community," said Mel Layne, a Securus House board member for more than seven years. "As we release these balloons and return to the normalcy of what we call life, please remember that each minute in this country, a man, a woman or a child, someone is being injured or killed as a result of domestic violence.

"Someone is left scarred emotionally and physically. As our economy continues to crumble, and we lose our jobs and homes. As the stacks of bills continue to grow, the family unit is also threatened. Please understand that we have to think before we act. Please reach out to each other, be patient and understanding. I do believe there is hope."

Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner told those gathered in the courthouse parking lot that the police received more than 11,000 domestic-disturbance calls in 2007, and more than 2,000 of those escalated from an argument to outbursts of violence.

Turner told everyone that domestic violence is a societal problem, not just a personal issue and not an issue that can be hidden.

"We can no longer afford to turn our heads from domestic abuse," Turner said. "It's killing our young people. It's killing our old people. It's killing us as a society."

Standing in a circle, the group read names and released balloons, one after another, and then ended with a reaffirmation of remembrance.

"We end by saying, 'We remember you.' Let's say that three times," Layne said. And as the last balloon disappeared, the people gathered, said together: "We remember you. We remember you. We remember you."

To help Securus House or participate in the abuse-awareness campaign, call (770) 960-7153, or visit www.securushouse.org.