On January 29, 2013, 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed in a neighborhood park in Chicago. A student at King College Prep High School, Ms. Pendleton had just finished her final exams, and had recently performed with her high school band at President Obama’s second inauguration. She was gunned down while visiting the park with friends – and those friends, along with her family and fellow community members – responded by creating the #WearOrange Campaign.

Culminating every year on June 2nd, the #WearOrange Campaign brings attention to the gun violence that claimed Ms. Pendleton’s life, and the lives of countless others. Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center commemorated the day by convening local, state, and national leaders to discuss measures to prevent violence, and to officially designate June 2nd as Gun Violence Awareness Day in Connecticut.

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Iran Nazario speaks during the event

Iran Nazario, Director of COMPASS Peacebuilders and Community Relations, joined Governor Dannel Malloy, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, Mayor Luke Bronin, Chief of Hartford Police James Rovella, and representatives of Saint Francis Hospital. While each spoke to Connecticut’s progress in curbing gun violence, Hartford presented itself as a microcosm for the national crisis. “When we talk about the toll gun violence has in cities, especially here in Hartford, we can’t just talk about the lives that are lost,” Mayor Bronin said, noting that these shootings leave an enduring impact on the community. “We have to do everything we can to address this problem,” he added.

For Iran, the COMPASS Peacebuilders’ program provides a daily impetus to stopping the violence. “In communities across this county, over 90 people die a day – either through homicide, suicide, or accidentally – because of a shooting,” he stated. “Collectively, we can do more to prevent violence. The pain of losing loved ones – a pain experienced by so many, especially kids – is a pain that never goes away.”

For more information on the #WearOrange Campaign: http://wearorange.org

Photo Credit: Joe Driscoll