BLOUNTVILLE – Local officials, family and friends of those who lost their lives in violent crimes gathered Sunday to dedicate a new memorial to victims of violent crime in Sullivan County.
Sunday was the first day of National Victims of Crime Rights Week (April 24-30).
The inauguration was organized by the Sullivan County District Attorney’s Office and HOPE for Victims, which advocates for victims’ rights. The memorial is in front of the Sullivan County Justice Center.
HOPE for Victims was founded by Mike and Joan Berry after the 2004 murder of their daughter Johnia Berry.
HOPE’s objective is fourfold: to speak on behalf of victims’ rights; providing support groups for families and friends of victims; advocate for legislation to promote DNA collection; and public education to balance the scales of justice.
Joan Berry spoke briefly at the inauguration of the new memorial, which took about a year from the planning phase until its inauguration.
The memorial was made possible through donations from the community.
Berry said the hope is that the memorial will raise awareness in the community and be a sign that the voices of our victims have not been silenced by their deaths.
“We will remember them and continue to stand up for them,” Berry said.
Berry said there will be an annual ceremony at the memorial, where new names will be added as needed.
Sheriff Jeff Cassidy, in his comments dedicating the memorial, described the permanent tribute as a first step in bringing survivors together and said it will serve as a stark reminder that evil exists and the community must work together to heal. make sure he doesn’t win.
Cassidy said in 2020 there were over 21,000 murders across the country.
But, he said, he wanted to end on an encouraging note.
“Love is stronger than death, even though it can’t stop death from happening,” Cassidy said. “But no matter how hard death tries, it can’t separate people from love. Neither can it take away our memories.