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Victims of Gun Violence Remembered on Anniversary of School Shooting in Stockton

STOCKTON -- On the 29th anniversary of the Cleveland Elementary School Shooting in Stockton, community members gathered for a vigil for victims of gun violence at St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in Stockton.

Attendees at the vigil included survivors of the Cleveland School shooting, relatives of the five children who died in that tragedy, and others who have lost loved ones to gun violence.

"We lost our innocence that day," said Cleveland School shooting survivor Amy Lamarra, who was in the sixth-grade at the time. "And we would love to forget it. But I don't know how."

So instead of forgetting what happened, they gather on the anniversary to honor and remember the victims. And in doing so, they find comfort, understanding the scars they each carry through life.

"Some people that day were scarred by bullets, some people were scarred by losing their children or their siblings, their best friends at school," Lamarra explained. "And a lot of us, all of us probably, were scarred in our hearts and in our minds. And it's something that shouldn't be forgotten. Those children's lives were taken."

The vigil, hosted by St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church, and organized by the Brady Campaign to prevent gun violence, was open to anybody grieving the violent loss of a loved one.

"It's like an everyday struggle to live without somebody that you love," said Christina Baro, who is hoping the person who shot her beloved son, Felix Cummings, along Whiskey Slough Road last October, will be identified and arrested.

In the meantime, she says she finds comfort in her faith and in the company of others who understand her grief.

Whether the violence happened a few months ago, or 29 years ago, the needs are the same.

"They need love, support, they need to know that the community cares about them and that we're beside them if something should happen," said Deacon Stephen Bentley of St. John the Evangelist, encouraging people to be positive influences in their community.

"I think there's always one little thing," Lamarra said of the importance of focusing on something positive. "If you can find something good, it will calm your heart and give you peace of mind and get you through it."

Lamarra now has children of her own. She wants to see schools do a better job of keeping gates locked and addressing the problem of bullying.

One of the hopeful revelations to emerge from Tuesday's vigil was the fact that a number of the children who survived the shooting have grown up to be police officers, teachers and other public service professionals.