UPPER CHICHESTER >> It’s a birthday gift that most would not want, but for Chester resident Quiana Butler, her attendance at Monday night’s Delaware County Chapter Parents of Murdered Children (POMC) vigil was, in her view, one of the best birthday presents she’s ever received.
“My dad brought my daughter and I here tonight to honor my baby,” she said. “I feel at peace here. He did this for my birthday and I am grateful to him. Some may not understand, but I am thankful that he brought us here.”
Quiana, her 12-year-old daughter Ceonnah and her dad, Steven Butler were among about 50 people who attended the POMC vigil at the Living Memorial Gardens located off of Fury Road. The event recognized Monday’s National Day of Remembrance of Murdered Victims.
Quiana was there to honor the memory of her 4-year-old daughter Ja’Miyah Nicole Butler, who died on Oct. 28, 2004 after being struck in the head by a bullet while sitting in traffic with her mother and a friend. They were on their way to pick up pizza when shots rang out in the 900 block of Tilghman Street. Little Ja’Miyah died eight days later at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“She’d be 13 years old,” Quiana said. “There is not a day I don’t think of her.”
Remembering loved ones lost too soon was the theme of the vigil, which featured an opening prayer by Fr. John Large, welcoming remarks by POMC President Jane McPhee, and speeches by Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan, Deputy District Attorney Michael Galantino and Upper Darby Mayor Tom Micozzie.
“There is no harder task that I have as district attorney than to sit down with a parent or a spouse or brother or sister and talk to them about the loss of a loved one,” Whelan said. “There is no easy way for a parent to ever lose a child, and it seems like more often I’m talking to parents on a daily basis, whether the result is a car accident, heroin overdose or even worse, a murder. It’s just very difficult. You are always in our prayers. We know it’s by extraordinary circumstances or divine intervention that you are able to get through what you do.”
Keynote speaker Kathleen Lyons, whose brother William Rabe was murdered on April 28, 1995 said her life changed the day he died.
“A piece of my heart is missing,” she said. “I don’t trust people as much. His death changed everything about me. My brother would be 42-years -old and I wonder what he’d be like if he lived. His death left a hole in my heart that can never be filled.”
In addition to the speakers, those in attendance joined in singing, “I’ll Stand by You,” and “We are the Survivors,” which has been adopted as the group’s official theme song.”
Leedom Boy Scout Troop #339 joined speakers and dignitaries in placing a wreath at the 911 garden and Gerry Baltuskonis lit five candles, while Carol Patterson recited a poem.
“This never gets easier,” said McPhee before the ceremony. “It’s been 22 years since this group was formed and it just as hard today as it was then.”
The Delaware County Chapter of POMC was founded in 1995 by Barbara DiMario, after the murder of her daughter Hope Ann DiMario-Popoleo and her friend, Rick Pepe.
Delco POMC holds monthly support group meetings in Norwood, and coordinates the Living Memorial Gardens in Upper Chichester.
Eleana McElwee, whose son Arthur McElwee III was murdered on Dec. 12, 2012 in the alley of their Chester home, was on-hand with her grandson.
“I come to all of these memorials to honor my son,” she said. “Coming here gives me peace.”