Parkside shooting victim mourned at anti-gun violence vigil

John Carrington was sitting on the porch of his home on the 4900 block of Thompson Street the evening of June 6 when someone in a passing car opened fire, striking Carrington and two friends.

He managed to stumble about a half block to Saint Bernard Street, where he collapsed and was rushed to the hospital.

Within three hours, he was dead.

Carrington was only 21 years old.

Friends, family members and advocates traced the young man’s last steps Sunday afternoon during a vigil in his Parkside neighborhood organized by grassroots gun violence prevention organization Heeding God’s Call.

“A lot of folks just don’t understand the devastation afterwards,” said Cheryl Seay, who lost her own son Jarrell two years ago on Easter Sunday.

“And when I say ‘afterwards,’ I mean after the service, after the people go away, you get this sick feeling in your stomach – and that never goes away.”

“It’s going to take every single one of us to stop this violence,” Jarrell’s father Joel Seay said.

“We have to find out where these guns are coming from and tell someone.”

That’s precisely the intent of Heeding God’s Call.

The interfaith coalition has for over four years staged regular protests outside local gun shops that have reputations for selling firearms to straw purchasers.

Members have now started staging “murder site witnesses” consisting of brief vigils at recent crime scenes, a practice that began with the organization’s Harrisburg chapter.

“Every time there’s a gun homicide in Harrisburg, they do one of these witness events on the street,” executive director Bryan Miller said.

“We would love to do the same thing in Philadelphia, but we’d be out there every night, almost, so we do them once a month on Sunday afternoon.”

Miller said in the most basic sense, participants are witnessing for their faiths.

But he said perhaps more importantly, the events serve to show residents whose lives have been touched by gun violence – especially in neighborhoods where such tragedies have become commonplace – that their struggles are not forgotten.

“We also hope to give people in what I would call damaged neighborhoods and communities a sense of hope that they are not isolated, that there are people who aren’t from their neighborhood who are concerned about how gun violence affects them, and we’re doing everything we can on a daily basis to make their neighborhoods safer.”

Carrington’s mother Virginia said the outpouring of support helped ease her pain, but she’ll never be fully healed.

“The stress, it comes and goes,” she said. “Like everybody said, it will never go away.”

A mother’s grief

Carrington said she still struggles to find solace when it comes to the loss of her son.

“This is where I sit and look at all the memories of the things he has done, from the time he was born to recently,” she said, gesturing to rows and rows of photographs lining the walls of her home. “This is him.”

Since her son was killed, she often wakes up in the middle of the night thinking she hears his voice.

The smell of certain foods also trigger her memory.

“He couldn’t cook, but he liked to tell me how to cook,” she recalled.

“I can still hear him sometimes, saying, ‘You’re not supposed to make it that way – make it this way!’”

Still, Carrington has vowed to continue her involvement with anti violence groups like Heeding God’s Call.

“I want to help other people because this is really outrageous,” she said. “After a month, it’s still overwhelming.”


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