Families share memories of lost loved ones

Families share memories of lost loved ones
Photo by Christina Santucci
By Rich Bockmann

One still-grieving woman lamented it was the group no one wants to belong to.

Sharon Plummer’s son, Shawn Plummer, was killed July 13. Brigitte Hoggard lost her son, Terell Fountain, June 26, 2011. Emett Mason’s son, Sidney Mason, was just 10 when he was gunned down in 1969.

Some women wept with sorrow as they recounted the tragic fate their sons met, their voices choked as they tried to explain how their loss affected them. One woman screamed with anger at the thought of her son’s murderer receiving “too much privilege” in the prison system. Another mother, who spent 17 years in prison, assured her that incarceration was “excruciating agony.”

But no matter how different their stories, no matter how different their experiences, the one thing the family members who sat down for lunch at The Door Restaurant, at 163-07 Baisley Blvd. in Springfield Gardens, Monday share in common is that, for better or worse, they belong to a community of people who have lost loved ones to violence.

“People can have sympathy,” said Donna Hood, whose son Kevin Miller Jr. was killed Oct. 2, 2009, “but only another person or another parent who’s going what you’re going through can have empathy.”

About 20 family members — mostly mothers, a pair of brothers, a sister, an aunt — were invited to lunch by U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) to discuss their losses, how they have dealt with them, and possible solutions to stopping the violence that takes the lives of the youth in southeast Queens.

“Not a day goes by … that I don’t get a report from a commanding officer — still — saying somebody was shot,” Meeks said. “It just seems as though it’s increasing as opposed to decreasing.”

The congressman said he envisioned the lunch as a sort of brain-storming session ahead of a meeting he planned to hold with law enforcement officials, elected officials and clergy members to discuss violence.

A good number of the family members belonged to Life Support, the group Shenee Johnson created after her son, Kedrick Morrow, was gunned down two years ago, one month away from his high school graduation.

“I felt like, you know, sometimes people don’t want to continue to talk about it, like even certain family members,” she said. “They don’t want to deal with it, and so I felt so alone, you know, but reaching out to other people — we always say it’s a club that no one wants to be in — but just reaching out and being able to talk to someone that can identify [with] you, it’s really helping me get through it. But it’s not just me.”

Dionne Gordon gripped an NYPD wanted poster asking for information in the 2010 killing of her brother, Maurice Johnson. She said on the day of his wake, her father collapsed from a massive heart attack and died. She said she carries the posters everywhere she goes.

“My story is a hard story, just like everyone here, but I still have to keep my head up,” she said. “I still know there is a God, and I will always, as long as I’m alive. It’s not just about him. It is about all of us here, all of us, and I just needed you to know that. I just needed you to know that to feel my story.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.