Eight parents, who each lost a child to violence, read during Friday's Children's Memorial Grove Ceremony at Fairmont Ridge.
Since 1996, the ceremony has been an annual tradition, put on by former Alameda County District 2 Supervisor Gail Steele, to honor the children who lost their lives to violence in the county and to raise general awareness of violence against children.
Karen Yifru from Union City gazed at the row of flags flapping in the wind at the memorial to find her son's,
"It's a day where you can come and remember and grieve," said Yifru. "You never stop grieving the death of a child."
Two bells were rung for each of the nearly 400 names read. To honor and remember the 14 children who died in 2011, a permanent plaque with the names of the children was installed on the octagonal stone memorial as well as the courtyard in front of the Alameda County Office in Oakland.
"Sometimes the death of one child can go unnoticed and unremembered except to the families," Said Dolores Johnson, a parent from Oakland who lost both her sons (Tshata Johnson, 17, and Malik Johnson, 16) to gun violence in 1986 and 1995.
The ceremony almost didn't happen this year due to staff announcing it's withdrawl from hosting. Former District 2 Supervisor Gail Steele, who spearheaded the memorial and ceremony, stepped in to keep it moving forward with the help of the Children’s Memorial Grove Parent Committee and the East Bay Regional Park District. The ceremony occurs each year on the forth Friday of April.
Castro Valley residents Mei-Lian and John Lin, both on the parent committee, attend the ceremony each year to remember their 14-year-old daughter Jenny, who in 1994 was discovered murdered in their Castro Valley home.
"It's very special to have such a sacred place," said Mei-Lian Lin. "We kind of feel like our children are watching us."
Despite losing these unreplacable members of their families, she said they as parents have become one large family through these horrific experiences.
Pastor Tommy Smith of Palma Ceia Baptist Church in Hayward, was one of several speakers during the ceremony. He commended the parents for pulling good out of such tragedies.
"Something is only lost if you don't know where it is, but we know these children are with the God that made them," he said. "People have come together in their grief and embraced each other in their grace."
Scroll through the photos listed above. You can also read the names of all the children whose names were read during the ceremony in the attached PDF.