OREGON CITY, Ore. - There are simply no words.
Anguish, heartbreak, sadness, misery - they all barely scratch the surface. There is no way to describe what it feels like when someone you love is murdered.
You try to remember the good things they brought to your life, but it's hard to push away the memory of their last moments. You try to move on, but you are an empty shell of what you once were. You try to find peace, but realize it may never come.
"There is no going back," said Steve Doell, president of Crime Victims United. He lost his 12-year-old daughter two decades ago when a teenage boy who fantasized about killing a young girl intentionally ran her over. "The bell has rung and you can't unring the bell."
On Wednesday, Doell and many others who know the feelings all too well gathered at Mountain View Cemetery in Oregon City for a National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims, and to see the names of those they lost to murder on a new memorial.
The Oregon/Washington Memorial Wall, spearheaded by the Greater Portland Area Chapter of Parents of Murdered Children (POMC), has been four years in the making. The memorial, which lists young murder victims, is the first such memorial in the Northwest and the eighth in the United States.
There are hundreds of names on the wall. Many, like Ashley Marie Pond and Miranda Diane Gaddis, are from high profile cases.
Family and friends crowded around the memorial on Wednesday to see their loved one's name and also to find the type of understanding that can only come from those who have been through the same pain. Their stories are different, yet the same - someone they loved was taken from them much too early.
"It wasn't their time," Mary Elledge, POMC's Portland Chapter Leader, told everyone. Elledge's 21-year-old son, Rob, was brutally killed in 1986. He was bludgeoned to death and his body was found in a shallow grave near Estacada. Three men were later convicted of his murder. "It wasn't an accident. And it was not an act of God - it was an act of evil. And by us standing up together, it shows that we are not all thinking like them."
"When murder occurs, it hurts more than just the victim," said Wade McGilvra, who lost his girlfriend in 1981 when a gunman opened fire inside the Oregon Museum Tavern in Salem. "Its horror splashes onto everyone - the victim's family, friends, as well as the community. Murder is darker than death and so is the road to surviving."
McGilvra shared his story at the cemetery on Wednesday, and also talked to KATU Investigator Bob Heye earlier this week, about surviving Oregon's first modern-day mass shooting.
30 years later, sounds of gunfire still haunt shooting victim
It wasn't easy for McGilvra, Elledge, Doell and everyone else who has had a loved one killed to revisit their pain on Wednesday.
Emotions came back to the surface - there were those who cried, there were those who didn't cry but whose pain was evident on their face and there were those who simply remained solemn.
The feeling in the air was palpable - so much emotion, so much pain, so much grief. There is no way to describe the raw hurt that this group of people, who never wanted to be part of this club, feels.
There are simply no words.
But perhaps some of the words on the memorial can help us understand at least a little.
"Murder devours innocent lives with a cruelty that is absent of reason, absent of values, and absent of compassion. Murder breaks all the sacred rules, knows no fairness, and can never be undone or compensated. The aftermath of murder takes us straight through hell where we stand eye to eye with the evil that hides behind the human race." - Carrie M. Freitag, Margaret J. Kerouac
"Your loved one's murder will test everything in you - your love, your strength, your faith, your values, your peace and your beliefs. May this test become testimony to all that is good in you, all that is good in the world and all that is good in the heavens." - Carrie M. Freitag, Margaret J. Kerouac
For those who would like their loved ones recognized at the memorial, there are about 50 spaces left on the wall. And although it's not something that anyone looks forward to, there are also plans to add another wall so more names can be added. To make an inquiry, call Mary Elledge at (503) 656-8039 or send her an e-mail.