Hearts heavy for crime victims
Candlelight vigil recalls painful memories
SARATOGA SPRINGS Alande Gachette slouched over a small white candle in Saratoga Springs’ Presbyterian-New England Congregational Church on Sunday afternoon, watching the flame.
His 10-year-old frame was small in the pew, dwarfed by his grandfather Ray Titshaw’s big head and shoulders. Both were quiet, solemn through the service until a microphone was passed to Titshaw.
“For my daughter who was murdered in 2004,” he said.
“For my mother,” Alande said.
The grandfather and child were just two of many gathered in the vaulted sanctuary to grapple with the far-reaching consequences of crime.
Sunday was Saratoga’s 14th annual candlelight vigil for victims of crime. It marked the start of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and the beginning of a handful of events in the area.
Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy III described the purpose of the vigil.
“My line of work is about the defendant,” he said. “The defendant has rights. The defendant is innocent until proven guilty. Sometimes the victim of a crime is lost in the tsunami that is the justice system.”
For Murphy, his staff and the few hundred others gripping candles, Sunday afternoon was a time to contemplate those forgotten victims.
Murphy spoke a few minutes, awarding commemorative plaques to locals he said had done a lot to help crime victims. He thanked John Kelly, a long-time city police officer who is spending his retirement working at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
He also thanked his secretary, Lisa Hogan, who plans the event each year. Mainly, though, the vigil served as a way of dealing with painful memories.
Between harp music and prayers, several women quietly unrolled a scroll of names. There were 456 names in all, enough to fill a strip of paper from altar to sanctuary doors, and each one was an area crime victim.
The very last name read was a crime survivor who mounted the stage with careful steps to give an account.
“My childhood was supposed to be filled with innocence and safety,” she said, describing how, instead, she was sexually abused by a family member for nine years starting at only 4 years old.
Long after that family member was incarcerated, she still deals with the consequences of his actions.
Another young woman, Samantha Mulligan, also spoke about how crime changed her life.
“May 19, 2012, is etched in my mind,” she said, telling how a drunk driver swerved into a gas station parking lot as she stepped out of her car, pinning her to the vehicle.
“I remember my 7-year-old autistic brother screaming in his seat,” she said.
She walked onto the stage without a limp Sunday, but said she still thinks about the incident.
“I had nightmares for months,” she said. “I was afraid to get out of the car at gas stations.”
Then the candles were lit, songs sung, prayers prayed and the microphone passed around. The short memorials compounded into a survey of local crime and its toll on people.
“In memory of my daughter, killed by a drunk driver,” said one woman.
“In memory of my sister, who was murdered,” said one young man.
Then there were Titshaw and his grandson, Alande. After the service, Titshaw said that when his daughter Faye was stabbed to death in Schenectady, he was the only one able to raise her seven kids. Almost a decade later, most of them are grown, leaving little Alande to accompany him to the vigil.
“He was 18 months old when she died,” he said. “I take him here to help him remember her.”