PATERSON, NJ - Stories of crime and violence were shared by grieving families at the 16th Annual Candle Light Vigil Sunday afternoon. Hosted by the Victim Witness Advocacy, survivors packed the Passaic County Community College auditorium to talk, share, and heal.

Death by Auto

On Dec. 14, 2011, Samuel Navarro was killed by a hit and run driver.

“It was an accident, I accept that,” said Navarro’s widow, Erika Plaza, who is the mother of three boys. “What hurts is that (the driver) left the scene. At least if he would have stayed maybe Sammy would have had something to say. That didn’t happen because he just left him there. If you hit a dog you stop ... but he didn’t stop for Sammy. He kept on going. I believe in the prosecutors, justice, but I believe in something that is real big: God and faith.”

Gun Violence

19-year-old Percival Williams died in November 2009, trying to help a friend who had been attacked. “He died,”  his uncle, Takeem Dean, remembers hearing in the emergency room. “Why did he die? Where did I go wrong?” he questioned.

While sitting through the trial daily with his family, Dean’s answers were in his court remarks and “Blood
for blood was not going to bring him back.” Percival’s killer received 10 years in prison, with two already served.

Domestic Violence

Indicted after brutally stabbing his victim 26 times, during a four-week trial Rev. Edward Fairley decided to represent himself. After his unsuccessful cross examination of Simmone Oliver, his ex-girlfriend and victim, Fairley was found guilty. He was sentenced March 22, 2013 to 21 years in prison.

“When I first met Simone, she could not walk or write or feed or dress herself, but despite her obvious and debilitating injuries, it was apparent to me that I was in the presence of a woman who exhibited exceptional poise and faith” said Passaic County’s Chief Assistant Prosecutor. “The truth is my story is really not a unique one, it’s the story of so many women who slipped through the cracks, fall by the wayside, are ignored and savagely silenced,” Oliver said about her near-death experience. “We live in a world where beautiful and terrible things happen. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you own, where you live or who you know, affliction is part in parcel of the human experience. History does not have to interfere with your destiny.”

Having faith and the will to live, Oliver decided she would not let “that man” write her story. “Every day when I see the scars on my neck and torso, I know that I am alive, and I decide how my story ends.”

During the solemn tribute, music by WPU’s Choir and Ricky Delgardo, and powerful words of strength from supporters were comforting. Emotions were deep as more than 87 crime victims’ names were read. Left with the burden of mourning without answers, sobs could be heard as lit memorial candles flickered in darkness. For those who could not forget, faces of loved ones lost were remembered on a wall of memories.

“It’s not just a picture, we are trying to learn to live and get over it. Each parents hopes their child will bury them, not a parent bury a child,” said Patricia Major Hill, whose son Vernon Lamont Major was shot in April 1992.