While crime has affected their lives in different ways and in varying measures, the victims and family members came together Sunday night in song and prayer to share how their faith has made a difference in dealing with tragedy and pain.
"You talk about doing things one day at a time, sometimes it's one minute at a time," said Karen Ferguson of Altoona, whose 21-year-old daughter Patience Ferguson was shot and killed in 2001 outside the Arandale Elks Club on Margaret Avenue. "I'm here by the grace of God. You go on. You don't get over it - you continue.
"The Lord is my light and my salvation," Ferguson said, reading from the book of Psalms. "Who shall I fear?"
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Attendees (from left)?Andre Traynor, Clenic Figaro, Toni Bilik and Jackie Bernard pray during the Singout for Crime Victims?service Sunday evening at the First Church of Christ. Traynor and Figaro are members of Men of Zion?from the Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, who were on hand to sing at the service.
Ferguson was one of eight victims or family members of victims who spoke Sunday night, their stories punctuated by the music and songs of local singers and musicians at the Fifth Annual Singout for Crime Victims, put on by the Victim/Witness program of Blair County in conjunction with the Blair County District Attorney's Office and hosted by the First Church of Christ on Juniata Gap Road.
Special music was provided by Men of Zion, Henry Hansard, Simply Grace, the First Church Praise and Worship Band, Ross Hoover, Tim Barr and Richard and Darcy Beagan.
Victim/Witness Program Coordinator Sue Griep said it was "an evening of faith, hope, strength, dedication and support" with people sharing their "journey of faith through the aftermath of crime."
While traditionally a night reserved for victims of homicide, people impacted by other crimes, including sexual assault, attempted murder and victims of vehicle-related crimes spoke about how their lives were forever altered by what happened and what their faith has meant to them and their families.
Nicole Lawrence was an 18-year-old Penn State Altoona freshman three years ago when on Nov. 1, 2009, the car in which she was riding with three of her roommates was broadsided by a speeding driver with no headlights as they turned onto Juniata Gap Road from Chestnut Avenue.
Tragically, Lawrence's friend, Nicole Chauvet, 19, was killed in the crash. Lawrence would go on to have two major life-saving surgeries, she said, explaining she spent a week in a drug-induced coma with massive internal injuries that included a stroke to her cerebellum. When she left the trauma center in Maryland where she had been flown after the wreck, she was told it would take two years to recover and she would never cheer again.
She was back in class in eight weeks, and in September 2010 she made the cheerleading squad.
But none of her pain compared to the loss of her friend. It made her angry with God, she said, and through it all God taught her many things, including patience and perseverance.
"God showed me what he wants me to do with my life," Lawrence said, noting that next year she'll graduate from Penn State and pursue a doctor of physical therapy degree. "I want to work with trauma patients."