It took Baltimore schools CEO Sonja Santelises more than a minute to read the names of the nine city students who have been lost to gun violence since last school year.
There was Andre Galloway, a 16-year-old Frederick Douglass High School student who was the first homicide victim of 2018.
Ray Glasgow III, a 17-year-old football and lacrosse star at Baltimore City College who had danced at prom and gone on a college tour before he was shot to death in May.
Jordan Deshields, a 16-year-old from New Era Academy who was shot on a recreation center basketball court and died less than a week after Glasgow.
“There are no words to describe our sadness in the face of such tragedy, and no limit to the sense of outrage we feel when we contemplate what we have lost,” Santelises said in front of school district headquarters, as a crowd of more than 100 people stood in silence. “Nine young lives, filled with potential and possibility. … They were capable of so many more achievements that will now not be realized and promise that will now go unfulfilled.”
It was the district’s first Peace and Remembrance Day, to honor students who won’t be celebrating the end of the school year.
Santelises prayed with the crowd “in memory of the students we have lost and in our determination that we must lose no more.”
The dead included three students from Excel Academy, an alternative high school in Baltimore that has lost eight students to violence in the last two school years. Rashad Parks, 19, was killed over the summer. John Brown, also 19, was shot to death in April.
Stefon Cook, 20, had been enrolled at Excel for just a month when he was killed in November. He had dropped out of school, but after starting at Excel, he endeared himself to staff and seemed intent on using his second chance to earn a diploma.
Thomas Johnson Jr., 16, was also recommitting himself to school when he was gunned down on Aug. 11. The Reginald F. Lewis High School student loved cartoons and basketball and was excited to start driving his mother’s car.
Also last summer, two 15-year-old boys were killed in Harlem Park: Tyrese Davis, who attended Calverton Elementary/Middle, and Jeffrey Quick, who attended Bluford Drew Jemison STEM Academy.
After their deaths, Harlem Park Neighborhood Council president Albert Wylie bemoaned the fact that the boys never had the chance to thrive in a neighborhood where they would have access to opportunity.
Mayor Catherine E. Pugh spoke Wednesday of a need to create more paths forward for the city’s young people. She touted her initiative to make Baltimore City Community College free for all city high school graduates and her recent youth job fair.
“With each loss, Baltimore also loses a piece of its future,” Pugh said. “The challenges of our city are great, but we can be better than this.”
A group of theater students from Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts closed out the ceremony. Among the children performing was a 17-year-old junior who shares a name with one of this year’s victims.
Rashad Adams said he was honored to be a part of a ceremony aimed at calling attention the violence, which he said is the biggest issue facing Baltimore.
He didn’t know any of the students who died this year. But every time he sees the news going around on social media, he said, he’s hit by waves of sadness and fear.
“I feel sad because it’s unfortunate that a life has been lost,” he said, “and I feel scared because it could be me at any moment.”