CHICAGO, Ill. – Since 1968, there have been more than 1.5 million gun-related deaths in the United States. That’s more than all war-related deaths since the Revolutionary War combined. Still, there is no permanent memorial to the victims of gun violence, but there’s a growing effort to change that.
Housed inside the Chicago Cultural Center are four glass houses with 700 brick openings. Each one is a representation of lives lost to gun violence in the U.S. on average each week.
Alan Scott placed a school medal and photos of his 20-year-old daughter in one of the glassed-in compartments.
“I still can’t believe my daughter was a statistic that year,” said Scott.
In 2015, his daughter Kaylyn Nicole, a college student and aspiring model was gunned down in a drive-by shooting. Her killers have not been caught.
Scott tearfully recalled the day his father called him with the news.
“He said ‘Kaylyn got shot.’ And I kind of blacked out,” said Scott.
Remembrance objects have been contributed by victims’ families, with name, year of birth and death on display. For Scott, it’s an exhibition of loss and pain.
“I want people to know her and remember her. But it’s torture. It’s hell on me. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone,” he said.
Pam Bosley was one of two mothers who inspired the exhibit.
Her 18-year-old son Terrell was shot to death outside a Chicago church in 2006.
“This is Terrell’s,” she said, pointing to the small brick enclosure that houses a diorama of Terrell’s interests.
“I made a model because it’s hard to fit his life in this box,” she explained with pride. “You see him on his drums, and you see a football. And Terrell loved to drive. When he got his permit, he was so excited.”
She has since become an activist against gun violence.
“This is not just a Chicago problem. This is a national problem,” said Bosley.
Designers say the sheer scale of the gun violence epidemic is all too often reduced to statistics. The installation seeks to humanize those whose lives have been lost.
It was created by New York artist Hank Willis Thomas and Boston-based MASS Design Group in collaboration with eight gun-violence prevention organizations.
Jha D. Williams, the MASS project manager for the Gun Violence Memorial Project , says they have received some 300 contributions of keepsakes from the families of gun violence victims to be part of the exhibition.
“We also have recently launched a mail-in process where families from around the country, who perhaps aren’t able to make it to an in-person collection are able to mail in an object,” said Williams.
The memorial closes in Chicago on February 9 and heads to Washington, D.C., where it will be on display at the National Building Museum through next year.
“In putting this together in memory of our children. It’s not just for Terrell and Blair, it’s for all of our children so that people can know who they are,” said Bosley.
The intention is to one day display 52 glass houses on the national mall and eventually have one in each state. Scott’s hope is that it will shock people into action.
“I want this crap to stop… this gun violence. I want it to stop.”