CLEVELAND — A Cleveland mother is trying to put the pieces of her life back together while remembering the 15 good years she shared with her son one year after his murder.
“When I had someone blowing up the balloons, I was just sitting there thinking, ‘I can't believe that I'm here doing this,’” Sharena Zayed said.
On the anniversary of Amir Bradley’s death Tuesday, family and friends came together to honor his life while calling for an end to gun violence in the city, particularly among teens.
“He was murdered here. He was leaving a friend's house waiting for me to pick him up,” Zayed said. “Someone starts shooting in the neighborhood at a boy that was in the same vicinity as Amir.”
Bradley was shot multiple times in the chest and torso in broad daylight on Woodland Avenue.
“One of the symptoms of grief is disbelief and even a year later, I still find myself in disbelief,” Zayed said. “Sometimes I can't even wrap my head around it sometimes how this is happening to me and this happened to him.”
Zayed said her son was an innocent bystander and a casualty of a much larger, systemic issue: gun violence on the streets of Cleveland.
“We have to learn how to control our emotions and our anger,” Zayed said.
Mary Williams of ‘Stop The Pain’ knows the emptiness and grief all too well.
“I am a mother who has lost my son to gun violence as well in 2017,” Williams said. “He was 26 years old.”
The organization that Williams helped spearhead provides anger and addiction resources within the community in hopes of combating senseless violence, particularly when teens are caught in the crossfire.
“We do conflict mediation and will work with people who have anger, resentment, hostility and forgiveness, judgment, criticism,” Williams said.
Community leaders said the COVID-19 pandemic has claimed more lives than just those who have died from complications of the virus.
“When you have playgrounds closed, you’ve got schools closed, you’ve got rec. centers closed and you’ve got libraries closed, what you expect these kids to do,” Bradley’s friend said.
Zayed said she will make it her life’s mission to ensure that other mothers don’t experience the same heartache.
“We have to learn how to take care of each other's children,” Zayed said. “We have to learn how to take care of each other. We're all a community. We're in this together.”
Aaren Washington, 24, was arrested in June 2020 in connection with the March shooting death of Bradley.
Tinisha Thomas, 44, was arrested after authorities suspected her to be the getaway driver during the incident.
The case against Washington and Thomas continues to move through the court. The pair was scheduled for pre-trial hearings on March 25, but proceedings were rescheduled for April 7.