It took a long time for Domanique Townsend to accept that her little brother was gone.
Todd Mitchell was just 13 when he was fatally shot in Pleasantville along with another teen on Dec. 5, 2012.
Seeing the boy his loved ones called “Doodie” in a casket changed her, said Townsend, herself just 17 at the time.
“I didn’t know how to take it at first, it was tragic,” she said. “I just knew my brother’s personality. I tried to put in my mind to stay strong because he would want me to stay strong and take care of my family.”
She has watched as her mother, Kellie Cors-Atherly, found a way out from under the grief to become a leader in the community looking to help others.
Cors-Atherly’s group, Peace Amongst the Youth, recently held a “Day of Remembrance” for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
“It was hard to watch your mom grieve over the loss of her child while trying to continue to raise her other children so her becoming a leader in the community was life-changing,” Townsend said. “You don’t think you would come out of the state of depression in losing a child.”
Wanting to help, Shannon Washington Sr. created a video montage showing many of those lost to violence.
“We came together because she wants to give back to the victims who have been affected and families who have been impacted in many ways,” said Washington, who lives in Pleasantville. “I definitely wanted to play a part the best way I knew how, and that’s through video and photography.”
Washington also helped those family members shared their own stories.
The videos were played during last week’s gathering at Atlantic City’s All Wars Building.
In addition to finding ways to lead area children on a better path, Cors-Atherly works to educate those left behind on how to get the help they need from the system.
“We all are trying to pull together to help this young generation see the pain that it’s causing,” she said.
Joyce McKinnon’s killing is considered unsolved, although Grant knows who did it.
She’s been told there is not enough evidence to convict the man.
“The gentleman who caused this received 58 years,” she said, speaking of Sellers Ingram, who was believed to be the target of the shooting.
Ingram is currently in New Jersey State Prison for the killing of 19-year-old Jamal Smith three days before McKinnon was killed. It was believed the shooting at McKinnon’s home was retaliation.
Events like the Day of Remembrance are “very important because this community is starting to self-destruct,” Townsend said.
“I know how they felt when they thought they had nowhere to go,” Townsend said of the importance of her mother’s work. “You feel like you’re alienated when a loved one is lost to murder because people don’t talk about it.
“To see that (Cors-Atherly) is trying to make a difference in this community, it really gives me hope,” she continued. “It gives me dreams. She’s a big inspiration.”