T-shirt display marks Harrisburg gun violence victims

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – You may have seen the display in Harrisburg: a collection of t-shirts outside a church in Uptown.

People stopped all day to look through them Monday, to take pictures and to remember their friends and family members.

“I seen this so I had to pull over,” Alexander Gilchrist said.

They’re hard to miss.

“It’s tiring,” Lee Lathan said, surveying the display. “You know, look at all this.”

“It’s not a big city to find out that this many people since 2009,” Duarlys Torres said.

The Harrisburg man was there at 6th and Woodbine streets looking for one person in particular.

“A friend of mine from high school who was shot at a party,” he said. “The problem wasn’t even with him. It was just a bullet that went to him and his life was taken away.”

That’s what Gilchrist was doing, too.

“You come here,” Gilchrist said, “and I see so many friends that I’ve known.”

“He got killed out on the hill a few years back. Atlas Simpson,” Ditto Lathan said.

The collection of t-shirts on t-frames is a reminder. It chronicles the lives lost to gun violence in the city since 2009. Most of the shirts feature the person’s name; some show their age when they died, some show the date they died.

There are 93 shirts staked into the ground this year.

“Children that I watched being raised,” Wanda Brownwaters said. “My own nephew.”

“They could have been anything they wanted to be,” Lathan said. “Doctors, lawyers.”

“Each one of these shirts affects so many people,” Gilchrist said.

The project comes courtesy of the group Heeding God’s Call in Harrisburg.

This is not the first time they’ve done it. Last year passersby noticed the display at a church on Market Street in Allison Hill.

“It opens your eyes and lets you realize that thank God we’re here,” Lathan said.

“It lets the community see it up front and close,” added Brownwaters, “and know that every last one of these tragedies is senseless.”

“It’s like going to the Arlington Cemetery. You know, you never think that war is real until you see all the bodies,” Gilchrist said. “You never think it’s as bad as it is until we put it all together.”

It’s probably worse; Torres didn’t find his friend.

“I mean, it is crazy,” he said. “Something needs to happen.”

“It’s sad,” Lathan said. “It’s real sad. We lost a whole generation.”

The display was set up in advance of Peace Day 2016, a community event and call to end gun violence in the city. That’s coming up Sunday, Sept. 26, from 4-6 p.m. at 6th and Woodbine streets in uptown.

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