COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) — As National Crime Victims' Rights Week comes to a close, the Columbus community ensured all those who have suffered from violent crimes receive a tribute in their honor.
That same honor was extended to families of homicide victims, recognized at the memorial service Sunday at the Columbus Government Center.
Stories shared reminded those in attendance that they can still find support in each other.
Kathy Caldwell, mother of one victim in 2001— Damon Caldwell, said she loves meeting with other members of the community – the people she calls her fellow survivors.
"Survivors go through the same thing. We were victims, but now we're survivors," Caldwell said.
The crowd heard words of encouragement in songs and prayers, including a story from the key-note speaker, Dana Reynolds, who lost her infant daughter to a violent homicide. For her, she said, the focus is educating victims' families on their legal rights.
"I think it's important that they get some research material," Reynolds said.
"That they know that there's numbers they can call, directly to the parole board, to get the information they need. They need to be educated on what they can do," she said.
Throughout the service, relatives hung blue "memory hearts" on a tree. On these hearts, loved ones left small notes with words of love and gratitude.
Shelly Hall, director for the District Attorney's Office Victim-Witness program, said relatives of victims, and even survivors, have the opportunity to help others affected by violent acts, which will, in turn, help them recover.
"The thing that I've learned," Hall said, "is that if you take the focus off your pain, and you start trying to help other people, you miraculously find healing for yourself."
After the ceremony, Muscogee County marshals led a procession to the Chattahoochee Riverwalk, near the Columbus Civic Center, where the group gathered at a brick memorial created in the victims' honor.
This year's theme for National Crime Victim's Rights Week was "Serving Victims. Building Trust. Restoring Hope."
The message behind the phrase aims to highlight the importance of providing victim services in a timely manner.