Survivors of gun violence from across Miami-Dade gathered at the Sherdavia Jenkins Peace Park Saturday to share their experiences.
The park is named after 9-year old Sherdavia Jenkins, who was killed in the Liberty Square housing project across the street in 2006. Eleven years later, shootings continue to rock Sherdavia's old neighborhood and other communities across Miami-Dade.
Survivors of gun violence came from Miami Gardens, West Little River, Liberty City and Goulds to share their stories. Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, a national network, held gatherings like this one across the country over the weekend.
The day was called "Survivors Speak."
One-by-one survivors came to the microphone and talked about what it's like to live in communities where the sounds of gunshots punctuate the nights almost daily, or trying to make sense of the killing of a close friend or a family member.
They also addressed the lack of mental health resources to deal with the community-level trauma that everyday gun violence leaves behind.
Megan Hobson was caught in a drive-by shooting while dropping off a friend in Miami Gardens. She was 16 years old at the time.
"I was shot with bullets from a high powered rifle, something like an AK-47. It tore my small intestine, my bladder, severed my nerve in my left leg because the bullet never exited.
"I have a slight disability so I have a handicap sticker and I go places sometimes and the most annoying thing to hear is, 'But you don’t look handicapped. What do you expect me to look like?' "
For people who have been through extreme things, there are not a lot of resources for them in terms of after --how to deal with it, how to cope. I think getting support groups is necessary because there are people who just don't know how to speak up about what they went through after dealing with gun violence."
Sonya Brown-Wilson lives just outside the boundaries of Liberty City. She says shootings are so routine in her neighborhood she started collecting the crime scene tape left behind after the police finish their investigation.
She has 11-year old twins and she fears for them anytime they go outside.
"They're fearful to walk to school. They're fearful to come home from school. I never thought children should have to live in fear just to be children. Sometimes I sit on my porch and I watch the children go by and say 'Good morning.'
"And they would stop at the bus stop. I guess they thought I was being another nosy neighbor, but the entire time I was standing there praying over them. That they would all be safe. "
Glenn Thomas has lost at least 10 friends to gun violence over the years. He lives in the Liberty Square housing project, also known as the Pork n Beans. He is the caretaker for his disabled father.
"The Pork n Beans is like a big square. Once you're in that square it's hard to get out that square.
"I’m a survivor. I done seen a lot. The gun violence, it took close friends away from me. [I] break down crying and I’m asking God is I’m next, asking God why?
"It's a lot of ways you can fall to the streets. You gotta stay strong, have love within yourself."