KNOX COUNTY — So far this year, 20 people were murdered in Knoxville as the homicide rate drops dramatically. Last year, 31 people were killed.
For the families left behind, the holidays can be a difficult time to spend without their loved ones.
On Monday evening, families who have lost a loved one to violence gathered at the City County Building to remember those who died. Through the tears and pain, they comfort one another. Only they understand what the others are going through.
"It’s still hard to believe. Even though it’s been more than a year, I still can’t believe my nephew is gone," said Cassie Bush, whose nephew Jerome Lock was killed in June of 2017. "It’s an indescribable pain. A pain I’ve never felt before."
Everyone there lost a loved one to gun violence, murder, or another crime that ended a life far too early. HOPE For Victims organized the ceremony to remember the lives lost. Organizers say the number of people continues to grow year after year.
"The people that are here, I hope that they can find some comfort in something," said Susan Taylor, whose son Cameron Smith was killed in October of 2017 in a shooting on Emory Road in Powell. "It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one who has gone through this horrible thing."
Cameron’s life was taken from him over less than a hundred dollars worth of marijuana. Today, his family hung an ornament with a picture of him from his final birthday on a tree filled with other faces of victims.
"We were at the dining room table and he had his cake in front of him," said Taylor. "That’s about the best picture we had of him."
The tree will be on display throughout the holidays at the City County Building.