Candlelight service honors gun violence victims and survivors

By Brandon Gustafson | Jun 12, 2019
Photo by: Brandon Gustafson Attendees pose in front of the Mukilteo Lighthouse at Moms Demand Action Mukilteo/Lynnwood’s candlelight service last Friday for Gun Violence Awareness Day.

With gun violence taking the lives of many across the United States each and every day, residents of Mukilteo, as well as across the country, held services in honor of Gun Violence Awareness Day last Friday, June 7.

Members of Moms Demand Action’s Mukilteo/Lynnwood chapter organized a candlelight vigil service that took place Friday in front of Mukilteo’s most famous icon, the lighthouse, as the sun set over Mukilteo on a nice summer evening.

The service was designed to honor those lost to gun violence, as well as victims and survivors of gun violence.

The service was part of Wear Orange Weekend, part of the Wear Orange Campaign started in 2013 to honor Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old who was shot and killed in Chicago.

Hundreds of events took place throughout the country as part of Wear Orange weekend.

In Mukilteo, Mayor Jennifer Gregerson gave a proclamation, declaring June 7 as Gun Violence Awareness Day in Mukilteo. Gregerson was one of a few who spoke at the event on Friday.

In her proclamation, she said protecting public safety in communities they serve is a mayor’s “greatest responsibility,” and noted many in the Mukilteo community have lost loved ones to gun violence, as well as suicide.

One Mukilteo resident who has lost someone to suicide is Judy Wallace, whose idea it was to put on the candlelight service.

Wallace is a former school teacher at Endeavour Elementary whose husband, Paul, committed suicide nearly eight years ago. She is now a single mother raising their two kids, Jack and Sydney.

“I’m a wife, I’m a teacher … and I’m a gun violence survivor,” Wallace told the crowd.

On Sept. 7, 2011, Wallace dropped Jack off at Harbour Pointe Middle School. Paul dropped Sydney off at Endeavour, then went to his wife’s classroom to help her organize the first day of school.

“Normally I would have had all that done, but that didn’t happen this year,” she said. “(That) August was spent coping with Paul’s clinical depression.”

Wallace said Paul spoke with mental health professionals after telling his wife his dream of buying a gun, and she thought everything was on the rise.

After he left her classroom, Wallace said she didn’t have time to call or text him until roughly 12:30 p.m., about two hours after he left.

This was during a housing crisis in the area, and when Paul returned home, he found a foreclosure notice on their front door. Wallace said Paul then  drove to a gun store in Woodinville and bought a shotgun, and was able to get a gun that day because there wasn’t a waiting period. He returned to their home, where he shot himself twice.

“Paul didn’t answer the phone at 12:30 because within two hours of leaving my classroom, Paul was dead,” she said.

After the Parkland, Florida, shooting last year, Wallace decided she couldn’t be silent anymore. She mentioned the Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) law that passed in Washington state, that would she says could have saved Paul’s life because of his history of mental health issues.

Kamiak senior Niko Battle has been part of the youth movement in Washington state opposing gun violence. He helped organize the March for Our Lives events last year, as well as Never Again: Mukilteo, an anti-gun violence event that took place at Lighthouse Park.

“I’m here today because gun violence is something that’s had such a profound impact on my life, but more specifically, on my high school experience,” he said.

Battle said there’s been a gun violence scare each year he’s been at Kamiak, including someone setting off fireworks in the school, which sounded like gunfire; the 2016 house party shooting where three Kamiak grads were shot and killed and a fourth was injured; when a former student was arrested for planning to either shoot up Kamiak or ACES High School; and this year, when a gang-related shooting in the parking lot of a Kamiak-Mariner football game caused mass panic, the cancellation of the remainder of the game, as well as the evacuation of Goddard Stadium.

“It’s been something that’s become a defining characteristic of being a high school student in the 21st Century,” Battle said.

After the remarks, candles were lit in orange bags in front of the lighthouse.

The bags had messages on them for survivors or victims, such as Anna Bui, one of the three who died in the 2016 house party shooting.

 

 

 

Candles lie in orange bags in front of the lighthouse. The bags had messages against gun violence and in honor of gun violence victims and survivors. (Photo by: Brandon Gustafson )
Candles lie in orange bags in front of the lighthouse. The bags had messages against gun violence and in honor of gun violence victims and survivors. (Photo by: Brandon Gustafson)
Gun violence survivor Judy Wallace addresses the crowd. Her husband, Paul, committed suicide in 2011. (Photo by: Brandon Gustafson )
A bag in honor of Anna Bui, who was shot and killed in July 2016 in Mukilteo. (Photo by: Brandon Gustafson )
Attendees set up the candles and bags in front of the lighthouse as the sun sets over Mukilteo. (Photo by: Brandon Gustafson )
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