BRAWLEY – After a night of speeches, Yulil Alonso-Garza, mother of slain teen, Martin Garza, rose and used the one-year anniversary of his death to announce the beginning of the “Unity in the Community” peace initiative.
At the podium, Yulil was joined by her husband and daughter, and they thanked the many in the stands and the community leaders who chose to come and speak about violence and about mending bridges.
Father Ed Horning began the ceremony by blessing the assemblage. Later Yulil thanked God for giving her the strength she needed for this past year.
”He has given me strength. I had to have faith in God to endure the path He set before us,” Yulil told the crowd.
Derek Quan arranged for a check presentation through a representative to support Garza’s Mothers Against Gangs.
Imperial County Superintendent, Anne Mallory, spoke of bridges that were already being mended as the Garzas have chosen forgiveness and forward motion.
“It is an honor to be here,” Mallory spoke, “to support the Garzas who have taken a senseless crime and changed it into a positive movement.”
Sheriff Ray Loera rose to the podium expressing support to the MAG Coalition. He related the story of first hearing how a soldier from the valley had been killed in Iraq on a 9/11 anniversary. His son, who happened to be fighting in Iraq, was not the one, but he remembers the sinking feeling and thinking, “Please don’t let it be my son.”
Loera said, “The Garzas have turned tragedy into something that will save someone else’s son.”
As Yulil finished speaking about the “Unity in the Community” campaign, she ended with a promise of a future event to bring the south and the north together as one. “That is our goal,” she said.
The evening ended in a spectacular lighting of Chinese lanterns. As each lantern filled with hot air from the candle flame, participants released the lanterns to drift slowly upward until caught up the air current. Soon the night sky was filled with drifting, glowing lanterns.