‘No return from pulling the trigger.’ Roanoke community remembers 17 gun violence victims

Published: Jun. 3, 2023 at 7:47 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Families Expecting Deliverance Using Prayer, known as FED-UP, hosted the Third Annual Prayer Breakfast Saturday morning. It was a space for the community to remember those lost to gun violence in Roanoke from May 2022 to May 2023.

17 chairs are empty with names on them – each one representing a person killed by gunfire in Roanoke.

“Victims of all ages, races, social backgrounds, and we just want to say, you know, gun violence has no respect of a person,” said FED-UP co-founder and President Rita Joyce. “It can happen to any family.”

FED UP hosts the prayer breakfast to raise awareness of the lives lost each year and support the victims’ families.

“This is something I can’t recover from. It’s a different feeling when you buried your own child,” said Rasheba Anderson.

Anderson’s son was killed in January 2022.

“He was one in a million to me. He was my firstborn. I had him when I was 25 years old. He only weighed 16 ounces,” added Anderson.

Anderson hopes the event raises awareness about how gun violence impacts families in the Star City.

“Everyone thinks these guns is a joke out here, but once you pull the trigger, there is no return – no return from pulling the trigger,” explained Anderson. “And what people need to know is that we have to have better control of the situation. It’s not up to our governors. It’s up to all of us. It takes a village. It takes everybody.”

Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea presented a proclamation declaring every first Friday in June Gun Violence Awareness Day. He also said the city council is working to stop gun violence in the city.

“It’s a commitment to reduce gun violence and pledge to do all we can to keep firearms out of the wrong hands,” said Lea.

The event featured music, a special dance, and prayers.

“I really love this event. I’m glad that everybody helped bring something beautiful to the city, even though... is a lot of pain going on in the city,” said Nokia Jones, who was there honoring her brother.

Roses were laid on the 17 chairs representing people who will always be remembered.

“I think once a loved one is lost to gun violence, everybody else forgets, but the families do not forget,” explained Joyce.