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The January 1, 2017 issue of the Chicago Sun-Times has postage-stamp size images of 681 persons who died during 2016’s violent crime epidemic (http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/mitchell-our-city-one-year-778-murders/ ). On New Year’s Eve, Father Michael Pfleger of Chicago’s St. Sabina Church led a Peace Walk on Michigan Ave. to commemorate those same lives, each punctuated with a cross created by Greg Zanis, an artist and carpenter in Aurora IL. The story of a year in Chicago (today’s prompt – year), as told by 750+ crosses…
Each cross had the name of the individual, their date of death, and a number representing their order in the list of 778 recorded murders that occurred in the city in 2016. Some had messages, and most had photos of the murder victim. As family members approached the Tribune Tower meeting point, they looked through the crosses on the sidewalk to find the one for their loved one.
I was there to photograph the Peace Walk, starting in front of Tribune Towers, traveling six blocks to Chestnut St. and back. Family members, friends, and empathetic Chicagoans supporting peace and non-violence carried a cross for each victim. Before the walk started, Father Pfleger made sure no cross was left behind.
It was a club that they didn’t want to join, but one in which families unfortunately found themselves a member. They hugged, offering support. Some were newly bereaved, having lost their loved ones the previous week; many cried openly. Father Pfleger and Greg Zanis urged family members to take the crosses home – several did, and a few had more than one to carry. It was a peaceful, but somber crowd.
Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, nieces and nephews, cousins — each remembering their loved one, and mourning their loss. These are scenes from Chicago’s own Trail of Tears.
- Chicago’s Trail of Tears: The trail of tears is lined by crosses with red hearts.
- Looking for a Loved One: This woman looked around the crosses, separated into groups by month, to find the one for her loved one.
- Across the Magnificent Divide: The crosses are hefty. Each had a stabilizer bottom so that it would stand, typically made of four pieces of wood. The crosses were solid lengths of wood, not plywood. Walkers carried them over the shoulder — they filled the four-lane wide expanse of Michigan Ave.
- #261 Darnell Hardeman: Died June 4, 2016. Rest in Peace
- Matthew Rodgers: A full life cut short. Rest in peace.
- Raise the Red Flag: Artist Sheila Clay (shown here behind Father Pfleger) designed the red flag to become a visible reminder for all Chicagoans. A human battle cry.
Before the Peace Walk ended, Father Pfleger told the crowd that the Lord laid it upon his heart to sponsor the walk, to give voice to this unspeakable tragedy, and to collaborate with Mr. Zanis to bring the crosses to the walk. Thank you, Father Pfleger for being a 5* community leader, and listening to that call.