PHARR — As people slowly entered the Pharr Events Center, they were greeted with a makeshift altar at the back of the room topped with hundreds of photos of murder victims.
Some people, many wearing shirts with tributes to their departed loved ones, stopped to observe the photos. Others made their way to the perimeter of the room, where some 20 tables lined the sides of the events center.
Each table was a tribute to an individual victim of murder or a violent crime. Some people greeted each other, others offered consolation to more emotional individuals as they walked by the memorial tables.
These memorials displayed photos of the deceased, some with small mementos.
One table had a bag of Takis chips, playing cards and a watch.
Another had a neon exercise shirt inside a ziplock bag with a note that read, “Save her scent. One of her favorite workout shirts.”
This was the scene at the 7th annual National Day of Remembrance for Murdered Victims event on Wednesday evening. The event was organized by the Rio Grande Valley Families and Friends of Murdered Children Inc.
Robert Garcia, who is the founder and CEO of RGVFFMC, appeared emotional yet satisfied with the turnout at the event.
“It’s always emotional for members of the community to come out,” Garcia said. “I’m very with the commitment of the organization, to help and reach those families. The families that you see here, since day one, have been with us since we opened the doors.”
Garcia founded RGVFFMC as a promise to his mother following the murder of his brother, Roger, in 2011. Since 2012, the organization has supported approximately 850 victims and families with support groups and events such as Wednesday’s.
The event is an opportunity for friends and families of victims of violent crimes to come together and provide support for one another.
“We’re united as a family to bring hope, strength, and to seek justice for everybody,” added Garcia. “If we can save or bring hope to one family, then I’ve done my job. This is a beacon of hope.”
Among those in attendance was Rosalinda Perez of San Juan, who said that this was her second time attending the event. She was there to show support after her nephew, Jose Luis Martinez Jr., who was murdered in 2011.
“You get connected with (other families). We’re all going through a lot,” Perez said. “We all get together to talk. We know half of the people here.”
Annie Orozco of Pharr attended the event to support her cousin, whose son Xavi Avitia was murdered four years ago.
“It’s nice how there’s a lot of support among families. That’s what you need, the support, because it is hard when you lose a family member, especially that way,” Orozco said. “(The event) has helped my cousin a lot. It’s devastating when you lose your son. He left four girls. He was only 28-years-old when he passed away. But I feel that it’s helping her. It’s not going to be easy, but she’s coping.”