For the fourth year, families and friends gather to remember loved ones lost to gun violence


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — From Wilmington city streets, to national tragedies related to gun violence, the victims and their families remembered this evening.

People from all faiths and all walks of life came to unite for the 4th annual prayer vigil.

“God, families are hurting,” prayed Judy McKnight with Moms in Mourning opening up the vigil.

It’s that hurt and a feeling of grief that brought many friends and families to St. James Episcopal Church for a sense of healing.

“It helps to heal to come down here and hear the prayers, to pray and remember your loved ones,” said Joye Todd who is remembering her late brother William Riley.

Billy Riley with his son who was killed more than 2 years ago. (Andrew James/Billy Riley)

Todd and her uncle Billy Riley have made this vigil a family affair. They brought along the nieces of nephews of loved ones lost like Riley’s son Lavar. He was shot and killed in spring of 2016 right in front of his family’s store in Wilmington.

“I think about the love my son had for his nieces and nephews, he just loved them to death,” said Billy Riley.

It’s a love that motivates them to bring the next generation to the interfaith event.
They want all of their family to see people from different walks of life united in one common cause in honoring the lives of those taken too soon at the end of a gun.

“It really good for them to come see and hear the prayers and see the effects of gun violence,” said Todd.

Wilmington Faiths Against Gun Violence (Andrew James/WWAY News)

The Riley family has some peace in their lost. The people accused of the crime are now serving time. This vigil is their platform to never forget their family and remember better times.

“They’re smiles, the good times not the bad, the good times. Their smile and their laughter that we shared,” Todd said.

Like years past, Wilmington Faiths Against Gun Violence conclude the vigil in darkness holding a light in memory of their family or friend. It’s also a light of hope that one day they will not need to continue having this event.

“That’s God’s job to do to take someone’s life. And all of these senseless murders just need to stop,” said Riley.

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