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Unbearable loss, a mother's pain and healing through sharing

Most mothers celebrate Mother’s Day as a day of appreciation. But for those who have lost children to violence, it can be one of the saddest days of the year.

The grief alone can seem unbearable. But they deal with other emotions, too.

“Mothers who lose children to homicides are often looked upon like it was their fault, that they didn’t raise their children properly,” Sandra A. Green.

She lost her two sons in murders a decade ago in separate shootings.

For years, mothers bound by their loss have come together on Mother’s Day weekend, more recently at gospel jazz concerts at Renovation Church and SUNY Buffalo State.

This year’s plan called for a march around the former federal courthouse off Niagara Square. The seven-story sandstone building will become Buffalo’s new Police and Fire Headquarters. The mothers want to draw attention to unsolved homicides and call for better communication between the community and police.

[Gallery: Mothers March by PEACE and MAD DADS]

The grieving mothers also found another way to help heal – by sharing their stories.

“The mothers need to tell what happened in their own words,” said Teresa Evans, president of the group Parents Encouraging Accountability and Closure for Everyone, or PEACE.

Here are their personal reflections.


Daveda Patterson

Daveda Patterson’s 17-year-old son Ronnie W. Scott was killed in a drive-by shooting on Aug. 12, 2014, on Shirley Avenue.

“There was a car coming down the street and the shooter in the car shot Ronnie’s friend in the leg. My son was trying to run with about five others when he was killed. His friend lived and another boy was grazed in the head.

“No one was ever caught in my son’s killing. I was calling the homicide squad every single day for like a year straight asking if there were any leads in my son’s case and they said no one was talking. I now call probably twice a month and speak with the detective, and she tells me that no one is talking but that she is still looking and still asking questions.

“I talked to one of the boys who was with my son, and I told him ‘I know you know who shot my son.’ He says, ‘I don’t know, I don’t know.’ But it is going on three years now, and he came to me in March and brought me some flowers and he told me who killed my son.

Daveda Patterson's son, Ronnie Scott, was just 17 years old when he was killed in a shooting in 2014. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

“I immediately called the detective, and she said that there’s nothing she can do until the person who told me goes to her with the information. I told the boy to go to the detective but he does not want to be involved with the police.

“I have been trying to hang in there. I have been very patient, and I know that the detective has been working hard. I feel bad. I miss my son. My son didn’t deserve to die like that. He has a 2-year-old son, Ronnie Jr., who is now asking for his dad. It hurts me to my heart. I ask him where his daddy is and he answers my question with what I told him, ‘My daddy is with Jesus.’

“On Mother's Day, I go and visit Ronnie’s grave, and then I go home and get in bed. I just lay in bed.”


Jacqueline Wells

Jacqueline Wells lost two sons, Mark C. Wells, 36, who was shot in a domestic-related slaying on Sept. 27, 2006, at May and Genesee streets, and William A. Wells, 29, shot by a friend on Jan. 6, 2002, on Titus Street at Broadway.

“I was lucky, thank God, because the killers were caught. We have a lot of mothers whose cases involving their children are not solved.

Jacqueline Wells has lost two of her sons to gun violence. Her son, William, was killed in 2002; Mark was killed in 2006. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

“I was able to go through it all and have the court and everything, but it doesn’t change the hurt. I wake up every morning and have to face the day knowing my sons will never be there. But I was blessed that they left me grandchildren. I have grandchildren and that’s something that reminds me of them.

“I also work at the PEACE organization. It helps with the hurt when we can help someone else heal.”


Mary Lawrence

Mary Lawrence’s son Michael A. Flores, 32, was fatally shot on Dec. 1, 2013. A 10-year-old boy discovered him behind a vacant house on Sanford Street in the Central Park neighborhood.

“Mother’s Day is very difficult for me as all the other days are. I do have three other children, two sons and one daughter, and I have nine grandchildren. Michael had two daughters. They’re with their mother.

“No words can express what the killer has done to our family. It seems like it was yesterday. Our lives have been changed drastically. Michael was like a twin to his brother Jason. They were 11 months apart. Chris was younger and always wanted to be like his big brother Michael.

“My thoughts go back to Michael constantly. He was cremated, and I have his ashes in an urn in my dining room. I have a memorial for him. The urn is on a special table with flowers, pictures and poems and candles. I have a specific candle that I burn daily.

Mary Lawrence, who lost her son, Michael A. Flores, when he was killed on Dec. 1, 2013, at the age of 32, clutches a photograph of him in her home. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

“I talk to Michael every night before I go to sleep. I tell him I miss him very much, that he was very loved and I wish we had more time together. Sometimes I get different signs. One day I heard someone coming up the steps and the door slam and nobody was there. I smell his cologne often.

“I feel the presence of my son on different occasions. I really do. And I know he is still here in this house with me and he hasn’t left. He was my first child and I miss him. I miss him so much. The violence needs to stop. The people who commit it need to have self respect for themselves in order to have respect for others.”


Kimberly Barnes

Kimberly Barnes lost two sons to violence. Carl Smith, 17, was shot on Oct. 29, 2004, at a house party on East Utica Street. Curtis Smith, 29, was shot at his birthday party on July 22, 2015, on Box Street.

“There were shots being fired outside the house party and one of them hit Carl in the neck. His brother, Curtis, was there and tried to save him.

“I was still grieving Carl when Curtis was killed. He was killed on Box Street right in front of the park where he was having his birthday party. I told him not to have his party there. As a mother, you have a feeling. Basically, I said let’s go out to eat. But he was grown, and he wanted to have a party. He went and bought food for everyone, liquor for the adults and popsicles, freezies and juices for the kids.

Both of Kimberly Barnes' sons were murdered in separate incidents of gun violence. Carl Smith was just 17 when he was killed in 2004. Curtis Smith was killed on his 29th birthday in 2015. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

“Me and my daughter, Diamond, went there and everything was OK. Curtis told me, ‘Mom, this is what I want to do. I love everybody. I want to feed everybody.’ He told me not to leave, but I went home and went to sleep because I had to get up for work the next day. I woke up later that night and heard Diamond screaming. She received a call Curtis had been shot.

“I went to ECMC and asked the police if I could get in to see him. I told them he was my son. They let me and he was gone, already gone, on his birthday.

“I’m going to church on Mother’s Day, and then I’m going to Forest Lawn and put some flowers on their graves. I feel like giving up sometimes, but I can’t. I believe in God, and God is going to fix this. They never caught my sons’ killers.

“I try to live an everyday life but there’s all the pain and hurt. That’s why I’m so nice to people. That’s how I want people to treat me. If they only knew the pain I’m still going through.”


Marquita M. Nailor

Marquita M. Nailor’s 17-year-old daughter Shmerea was killed in a drive-by shooting on Oct. 9, 2014, walking home on Ontario Street.

“Somebody just drove by and shot her. I later found out from the homicide detectives it was a case of mistaken identity. They never caught the killer.

“It’s devastating, and it has really taken a toll on her brother and sister. On Mother’s Day, it’s kind of hard. We go out to her grave and sit with her for a few hours at St. Matthew’s Cemetery in West Seneca.

“I talk to her a lot when I’m there. I tell her all kinds of different things but most of all that I wish she was here and that she hadn’t been taken away from us so soon.

Marquita M. Nailor's daughter Shmerea was 17 years old when she was shot while walking home from the store in 2014. She holds the high school diploma from that was awarded posthumously at Burgard High School. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

“It’s very hard. I actually started a transportation company to raise money to keep Shmerea’s name going. I have a driver who gives rides and a portion of the proceeds help to fund college scholarships. I’ve picked East High School this year to award a scholarship in her name.

“I also do fundraisers for the scholarship and have the last one for this year coming up June 4 at the Rainbow skating rink in North Tonawanda. The scholarship is for $1,000 and this will be the third year. I try to take a negative and put it into a positive.”


Sandra A. Green

Sandra A. Green’s son, Steven E. Barney Jr., 31, was shot on Jan. 9, 2007, outside an Atlanta restaurant, and another son, Corey D. Green, 21, was shot on Nov. 12, 2007, outside a Walden Avenue ice cream parlor.

“Corey’s birthday is May 6, right around Mother’s Day, but every day is a sad day. He would have been 31 this year. It has been 10 years, and they have not solved his case. Before Stevie died, he told me he wanted to come home for my birthday, which is Jan. 13. Sadly, he did come home.

“You know where my thoughts and prayers will be going this Mother’s Day? To the mothers whose children have taken the lives of others. Those mothers suffer, too.

Sandra Green holds a photograph of her two sons, Steven Barney Jr. and Corey Green, taken in 1986 when they were 11 and 5 months old. In 2007, they were both killed by guns in separate incidents. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

“Stevie had accidentally stepped on the foot of someone as he was leaving the restaurant and another person said, ‘You gonna let him get away with disrespecting you?’

“The killer was caught on camera running and getting a gun from a car. He was sentenced to life. When I went to the court, no one was there to support him, other than his court-appointed attorney. I thought to myself, when did we lose that child?

“The thing is let’s address the lack of support for our youth who are high risk so that we turn their lives around, and in turn that makes our neighborhoods, communities and cities safer.”

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