JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Families who have gone through unthinkable pain, reunite with the past to hold onto their childrens' memory.
The 17th Annual Unity Plaza Vigil was held at Terry Parker High School Monday night.
Standing side by side in a circle moms, dads, brothers, and sisters lit candles in remembrance of the young lives cut short in and around Jacksonville. Children like Maddie Clifton, who was murdered 14 years ago, were remembered.
Her mother still carries her picture with her everywhere she goes.
Sheila Clifton Delongis said, "She was born in 1990. She died in 1998, eight short little years of life on this earth, and she was one beautiful child."
Maddie died at the hands of a 14-year-old neighbor. Her mother says there will never be closure, and she says a recent Supreme Court ruling could lead to her daughter's killer being set free.
"If you had an 8-year-old child and you had a boy that lived across the street from you murder her in his home and hide her body from you for seven days while we looked for her and he slept in that room while her little body rotted under that bed. He hid her under his waterbed. One day of knowing that boy is going to stay in jail for the rest of his life. Oh thank God, to the next day of knowing he is going to get out," said Sheila Clifton Delongis. "You just don't know the feeling of thinking that boy could get out of jail and hurt another child."
Maddie's mother came to send a powerful message.
"Being with these other families lets them know we've made it. We made it through this and we've come out okay. we've come out stronger people because there is so much to deal with," said Delongis.
Toni Pesavento lost her daughter last year. Three-month-old Makayla died after being violently shaken.
Her precious face now framed with so many other children who have died senseless deaths.
Pesavento said, "Life is more than just five second of hurting somebody. You can take one life but you take a lot more than just one. He took her life. But he took all of ours too."
First Coast News