Remembering 43 young lives snuffed out in Baltimore this year

The Baltimore Sun

It takes both of the Rev. Jan Hamill's arms to carry the binders filled with clippings about murdered Baltimore youth.

There's one for each year: 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000.

For four years, Hamill and others at the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation at North Charles Street and University Parkway meticulously cut out and saved news articles of children and teenagers killed on Baltimore streets. They stopped after 2000.

Hamill doesn't quite remember why; perhaps people went on to other endeavors, or got too busy, or got overwhelmed.

The priest still collects the names, and at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow, she will once again lead a New Year's Day service to honor their memories. One by one, a candle will be carried to the front of the church, lined up on the altar and blown out as each name is read aloud.

Until the church falls dark.

This year, there are 43 names. Last year, there were 48.

Hamill sits in her chair in her cluttered office and scans the list.

Some stand out. The three Castillo children who were drowned in a bathtub in an Inner Harbor hotel; two infants killed before they could even be named; a boy stabbed outside a middle school; a boy shot while delivering grapefruit to a neighbor; a girl who ran away from home in Virginia and ended up dead in Baltimore.

Most names don't register at all.

"We know some of the stories but not very many of them," Hamill says.

She continues to look down the list, and recognizes two of the names. The boys had been involved in the church's Western Maryland retreat, All God's Children.

Hamill's exasperated.

About 70 people came to last year's service. Most were parishioners. Only a handful of grieving family members showed, and no clergy from other churches around the city.

Hamill's list is longer than one kept by city police, who say 26 juveniles have been killed this year in Baltimore. Hamill includes youths 18 and under, while the city counts those 17 and under. Baltimore is poised to record the fewest number of killings in 20 years, with 233 this year, compared with 282 in 2007.

The priest shrugs. "That's 233 people who should be alive."

Hamill also knows that many of those killed were involved in violence and drug dealing. Her New Year's Day service is not the time to categorize victims, or blame them. "Everyone deserves a life," she says.

Hamill keeps looking at the list.

So many names.

So few stories.

"Where was the school?" she asks.

"Where were their parents?"

"Where were their aunts? Their uncles?"

"Where were any of us?"

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