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Kansas City To Honor Victims Of Deadliest Year On The 'Longest Night'

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Carlos Moreno/KCUR 89.3
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Kansas City police officer Dave Jackson walks among the 173 crosses staked in front of Wornall Road Baptist Church on Friday following a press conference announcing plans for the Longest Night remembrance of homicide victims in Kansas City.

Kansas City has had 173 homicides so far this year, a new record, and each will be remembered on Monday at Wornall Road Baptist Church during its "Longest Night" service.

For the past decade, Wornall Road Baptist Church has put crosses on its front lawn for every homicide victim in Kansas City.

Sue Bloemer of Brookside has lived across the street long enough to see the church put them up every year. But this year is the first time she's seen the crosses expand from the front lawn to the other side of the sidewalk.

"It's sad," Bloemer said Friday. "It makes me realize it's time to pull together."

The church will be honoring the victims at “The Longest Night” on Monday, a night of prayer and reflection on Kansas City's deadliest year on record — 173, according to the Kansas City Police Department.

Event organizer Mark Clifton has put out the crosses each year. He decided to add the names of each victim this time, as well as stuffed animals to the crosses of one-year-old Tyron Payton and four-year-old Legend Taliferro, two children killed by gun violence.

"This year is incredibly painful," Clifton said. "You look at their names and you look at their ages, and you realize how much hurt there is."

Clifton hopes "The Longest Night" provides comfort for the families who may otherwise feel alone this holiday season.

"They are not alone. Their loved one is more than a name across the bottom of a news screen one night and forgotten the next," Clifton said. "Their loved one means something to them, and they mean something to us."

This includes mother Rosilyn Temple, whose son was shot and killed on Thanksgiving Eve in 2011. Although she says she didn't have the strength to attend "The Longest Night" that year, she's since founded "KC Mothers in Charge," a group that works to prevent local violence.

"I'm begging my community to stand up, Temple said. "I plead today that we stop making it our longest night."

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Carlos Moreno/KCUR 89.3
Rosilyn Temple, founder of KC Mothers in Charge, is flanked Friday by Kansas City Police officers as she encourages the public to not ignore the message of the Longest Night remembrance scheduled at Wornall Road Baptist Church for Monday.

The church will read the names of all 173 homicide victims in Kansas City at the service. Pastor Darron Edwards emphasizes this "is not a political statement. It's a human statement."

While 2020 has been marked by nationwide protests against police brutality, including calls in Kansas City to fire Police Chief Rick Smith, Edwards says it will take everyone working together—people, pastors, protestors, politicians and police—to get to the heart of city's homicide crisis.

"What's happening in our city is not normal," Edwards said. "Kansas City can't keep calling itself a world-class city when we're behaving like a third-world country."

Edwards is the founder of "Getting to the Heart of the Matter," a program launched this year that aims to support the community and the Kansas City Police Department through faith. He says the crosses—found at the busy intersection of Wornall Road and Meyer Boulevard—are placed there strategically so that as many people as possible see them.

"When it doesn't affect our community, we are sometimes immune from it," Edwards said. "We want every sector of our city to feel the pain and frustration."

There are stark differences in the number of homicides in Kansas City by zip-code, Edwards acknowledged. But he likens violence in the community to dominos, saying the ones at the end will fall down, too, if everyone doesn't support each other.

"In Kansas City the dominos have been pushed, and the domino at the end may say 'Well, it doesn't affect me,' but when it does, you'll want the love and support of all the other dominos that have been affected," Edwards said. "It is my hope that this city that I love will feel the hurt, pain, and frustration of people who don't look like you."

The service will be streamed at 7 p.m. Monday on wornallroad.org and on the church's social media platform.

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