COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - "Tragedy is not fair" were the words, spoken by Shameika Averett, the mother, daughter, and sister of the victims murdered in their Upatoi home in 2016.
Averett spoke out against the violence her family and dozens more have suffered in Columbus over the past three years, as a large group gathered inside the Abundant Life Gospel Family Center on Buena Vista Road, paid close attention to her message.
Alongside Averett, her friend Dr. Delta Outley, whose group, "Standing Against Violence Education", or S.A.V.E., brought concerned parents and Columbus city leaders together to brainstorm ideas on how to prevent further violence through education.
"It's going to take all of us, not just the police or our mayor," Outley said. "It's going to take everybody getting involved."
Outley invited families to share their ideas with a panel of experts in law enforcement and education during Monday's 'Save our City' forum.
"People do have some solutions," she said, "that we can work on together."
The audience also received input from policy leaders, like Kia Chambers, Muscogee County School Board Chair. Chambers said the city's crime rate and violence among younger people, are connected to the opportunities available to them - both educational and recreational.
"If we can start educating our kids at an earlier time," Chambers said, "not just on reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also on their social responsibilities;
The more and more we do that, the more and more you'll see the crime rate go down, and create a 'safety' environment."
Perhaps even more important for public officials like Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman, is that the dialogue between leaders and the community moves forward until the best ideas are put on the table.
"We get a chance firsthand, to listen to some of the people and how crime has affected them," Countryman said. "When we leave this meeting, we need to have another meeting and come back, because whatever we lay on the table, we need to move forward with."
Both the panel and families who attended the forum said they want to continue funding and supporting programs successfully, educating children about social responsibility such as the 'Junior Marshall' program in Muscogee County.
Another facet touched on during the question and answer portion of the forum was getting parents involved in students' social lives to keep a closer eye on who's influencing their behavior, and providing the guiding example while away from school.