A small caravan of advocates for murdered and missing children, armed with passion and picture stands, rolled through Toledo yesterday as part of a trip to Ohio and Michigan.
A half-dozen members from two Cleveland-based advocacy groups, Survivors/Victims of Tragedy and Black on Black Crime Inc., traveled together in three cars - the lead one supporting a four-foot wall bearing the pictures of 21 missing Ohio children.
In a parking lot in southwest Toledo, the group displayed pictures of 90 missing Ohio children, including five from the Toledo area: Jamel Williams, who is now 14 and has been missing since 1994; Emily Sawyer, who is now 22 and has been missing since 1988, and Derrick, Khadijah, and Zaimah Martre, now 14, 12, and 9, all missing since 1999.
With the group was Cleveland resident Felix DeJesus, father of 14-year-old Georgina DeJesus, who disappeared last year in Cleveland on her way home from school.
"So much pain," Mr. DeJesus said. "In a second, they could be gone. You never think it could happen to you."
The group traveled yesterday from Lorain, Ohio, to Toledo, to Detroit.
Judy Martin, who founded the victims' group after her 23-year-old son was fatally shot in a carjacking incident, said she is trying to reach out to victims' families and build a support and informational network throughout Ohio.
"There's life before murder, then there's life after murder," Ms. Martin said "It created a huge, huge hole."
Ms. Martin noted that 35 percent of homicide victims in Toledo are 25 years or younger.
"We need to find a way to reach out, talk to each other, and stop being afraid of our kids," she said. "We need to talk to them."
Judi Ellis of Toledo, who founded the youth outreach group KEVIN Inc. after her 18-year-old son, Kevin, was shot and killed in a random drive-by shooting in 1995, agreed that reaching out to youngsters is the way to start stopping the violence.
"I thought, what's the purpose of living when you tell your kids to be the best [they] can and good things will happen? Even today, after 10 years, it's still tough," she said.
"These kids today have no fear of life or death, and no concern for life. There's so many out there at the age of 12 who are out there by themselves - you need to show them how rich their life can be."