Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Vigil Of Hope

I was cleaning out a drawer in my desk this morning when I came across this story. I remember seeing a headline in the Daily Press recently about this case so I thought I would post this story that appeared on the Sept. 23, 2007. I was working a Saturday shift at the Daily Press and went to cover this vigil at a Hardee's fast-food restaurant in remembrance of an employee who had been murdered there a couple weeks beforehand. No arrests had been made at that point; it wasn't until earlier this year that three suspects were charged in the employee's killing and shooting of another employee, who survived and fully recovered. The newspaper life can be pretty dreadful sometimes, full of writing about tragedy and human despair. This small event gave me a glimmer of hope, however. The headline of the article was "After a slaying, vigil bids to untie tongues."

It didn't feel quite right.
It was Saturday evening, 6 o'clock sharp, dinnertime in a Hardee's parking lot on Denbigh Boulevard.
But instead of cars motoring through the drive-through, the parking lot was filled with a gospel choir and 200 people.
They were clapping and singing "I Love to Praise Him," the sweat beading on their brows and their voices straining to lift the words to their God above the din of cars and Harley-Davidson motorcycles rumbling by.
But it wasn't church. Revival hadn't broken out on the Hardee's asphalt.
Or maybe it had.
Pastor Kermit Jones of nearby Holy Tabernacle Church of Deliverance couldn't be sure.
"I have to remember where I am," he said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
Two weeks earlier, one of his parishioners, Dianne Green, was gunned down by two men while she was at work in the Hardee's.
Her slaying remains unsolved.
The gathering Saturday was a candlelight vigil in Green's honor. It was also an attempt to rally the community and send a message of hope, Jones said.
"We just want kids to know that we care," he said before the vigil. "Most importantly, God cares."
The vigil drew childhood friends such as Jesnita Ware, who grew up next door to Green in Gloucester and attended school with her.
Ware said she came as a measure of support. Green "was a lively person," Ware said.
Former co-workers such as Laura Spencer, who lives in Williamsburg, also came.
Green "touched a lot of people," Spencer said.
Danielle Martin attended church at Holy Tabernacle with Green. The turnout at the vigil was "just awesome," she said.
"We will miss her and she was a good person and a good member of the community," Martin said.
During the vigil, Newport News Police Chief James Fox made an appeal to the crowd and asked for their help.
"Two devils came in and did this," he said. "We need to get the devils off the street."
Newport News Sheriff Gabe Morgan spoke next and asked: "Folks, the power of life and death is in what?"
The tongue, people answered.
Morgan replied that Green always had a good word for people when they came in to Hardee's or saw her in church or on the street.
But a wall of silence has permeated her slaying and investigators have few leads. For her life not to have ended in vain, Morgan said, people have to use their tongues and speak up.
"Silence is killing our community," he said.
Jones urged the men in the community to step up and be mentors, to visit schools and volunteer as coaches.
Young people "need you as a big brother," he said.
Jones closed the vigil in a prayer, then those able to walk the half-mile or so to Holy Tabernacle began their march.
Under a police escort, the group marched two and three abreast, an assembly nearly a block long.
Young and old, black and white, all holding candles.
Those at the rear passed by singing "Amazing Grace."

Maybe it was right after all.

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