Staten Island Advance
By Paul Liotta
April 13, 2018
More than 70 people gathered in West Brighton Thursday night to remember and honor victims of violence.
The 24th Staten Island Crime Victims’ Rights Week Candlelight Vigil, organized by Safe Horizon and the office of Richmond County District Attorney Michael McMahon, was held at the Sipps Auditorium of the Richmond University Medical Center.
“It’s really a chance for us to help them heal,” McMahon said. “It’s a horrible thing to be a victim of a crime, and we do everything we can to just sort of mitigate what people have been through.”
Several women, who were victims or survivors of crime, addressed the crowd about their experiences.
Denise Henick lost her father, Arthur Leahy, to gun violence in the 1970s, and her brother, Police Officer James Leahy, died in the 9/11 attacks.
The elder Leahy, a Parks Department employee, was gunned down at LaTourette Park during a botched break-in on April 6, 1975.
“I think its really important to have a support system,” Henick said of coping with tragedy.
Nicole Hunt, whose fiancee, David Williams, was gunned down in 2011, said the wounds from six years ago were not fully healed.
“I still work every day to overcome my tragedy,” she said.
The loss of Williams, who is the father of her daughter, continues to be part of her life, but she said she tries to be proud of her successes. She is a licensed nurse, and their daughter is an honor student, she said.
Director of Safe Horizon’s Staten Island Community Program Jennifer Hernandez Baniqued helped organize the event. “Just having a group of victims and survivors to talk about their experiences and journeys is important,” she said.
In 2016, McMahon’s office created the Victims’ Services Unit. Six victim advocates work with and support individuals who have witnessed or been victimized by crime on Staten Island.
Counselors were also present at the event to aid victims.
The event is held as part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Thursday night’s event also focused on the year’s theme of NCVRW — Expand the Circle: Reach All Victims.
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