In an emotional ceremony before more than 300 onlookers, 66 names were added to the Garden of Peace memorial on Beacon Hill Thursday night, victims of violence who Massachusetts hopes will never be forgotten.
Local and state officials joined residents at the garden on Cambridge Street for the ninth annual Honor Program to commemorate hundreds of victims who lost their lives to murder.
“I feel, to be honest, excited, because it’s always a moving ceremony,” said Leah Green, chairwoman of the memorial’s board of directors. “Everyone here has a common theme of having lost a loved one to murder … so we try to make the program insightful and inspiring and hopeful.
“We want to make it a place that people can honor those loved ones that a lot of times don’t get remembered in a way that they should.”
The Garden of Peace is a memorial with a streambed of smooth river stones etched with the names of those who fell victim to homicide in Massachusetts from as early as the mid-1940s, and it seeks to remind and teach visitors of the impact of violence.
With the 66 names added Thursday, the memorial now has about 860 stones lining the garden edges, Green said. There were 52 names added last year.
During the ceremony, sobs echoed through a courtyard next to the garden as members of the community and loved ones of homicide victims read the names being inducted.
One of those readers was Katherine Cremin, of Somerville, who attended to honor her daughter Deanna, who was killed in 1995 at the age of 17. Her murder case remains unsolved, and on Thursday night, Deanna’s name was added to the hundreds of other slaying victims.
“For me tonight, getting her name out here, is an honor,” Cremin said. “It’s a bittersweet ceremony that my daughter’s name lives on forever. But for me, it’s also to let the killer know that we are not giving up and we are coming after him. There’s a murderer walking among us and it’s an unsafe world and he attacked my family, and I want him off the street.”
The memorial garden also features a water fountain, which was installed in 2004 when the garden opened, but did not begin operating until this year due to a lack of funding.
The foundation sits at the base of a sculpture of Ibis Ascending, which is a sculpture of long-legged birds aiming toward the sky and signaling hope for those that are grieving.
According to information from the Boston Police Department and the Suffolk district attorney’s office, there were 51 murders in the Boston in 2012.
The Garden of Peace acts as an educational tool utilized to increase awareness of such violence.
“Every person is an ambassador for the message of ending violence,” said Andrea Cabral, secretary of the state’s executive office of public safety and security, who attended Thursday night. “Every person is a potential actor in the goal of ending violence and that’s where I think the education comes in. You hear, you see, you sit next to people, you feel, and that ought to compel you to act in some way.”
Thursday’s ceremony was led by Attorney General Martha Coakley.
The concept for the Garden of Peace was created about 16 years ago. With funding from corporate sponsors including Suffolk University, Suffolk Construction Co., and private donors, the garden was opened in 2004.
“I feel sad,” Cabral said. “I’ve been in law enforcement for 28 years and that’s a long time to be witness to this level of pain, but i’m also uplifted by the strength that I see in people, their determination to keep going, their determination to try to end all this violence. I want to hug everybody.”