Memorial honors young victims of violence, neglect

Episcopal Cathedral's garden is to serve as reminder to city

October 23, 2005|By JAMIE STIEHM | JAMIE STIEHM,SUN REPORTER

A serene outdoor space by the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation will be dedicated today to honor the memory of Baltimore children who have died from violence.

The Children's Peace Memorial's placement at a busy crossroads -- where St. Paul Street, Greenway and East University Parkway meet at the border of Guilford and Charles Village -- is no accident. It is meant as a reminder of a darker side of city life, where dozens die young every year because they met with harm, whether on a street or inside their homes.

"This is to make sure the city is reminded that every time we lose a child, that's one less of us," Sarah B. Wolfenden, executive director of the church's Children's Peace Center, said yesterday. The memorial faces and symbolically embraces the city, she said, "to make an impact on the urban environment."

The Maryland State Boychoir will perform today at the North Baltimore cathedral at a 4 p.m. service, which will culminate in a walk to the peace memorial. The place of remembrance will be dedicated with songs, prayer and a blessing by Bishop Robert Ihloff.

Children from the peace center will participate by placing on the ground throughout the meditative space 36 handcrafted tiles with names of city children who died in recent years because of abuse, neglect or violence.

The memorial tiles -- colored by sand, seashells and beach glass -- are simply adorned with a child's first name and age in a pattern that features palm prints.

Wolfenden, who oversaw the memorial project, said: "They could be month-old twin girls or a 17-year-old boy. We don't draw distinctions between ... victims. Nobody that young deserves to have their lives cut short."

The Children's Peace Memorial is designed to resemble a flowing green-grass stream with a winding footpath and a wood footbridge leading to a sculpture of a lion and lamb resting peaceably together, and it is full of graceful touches that invite people passing to pause and stay a moment.

A slab of white Georgia marble, where the lion and lamb relief is sculpted, sparkled bright even in the rain yesterday. The centerpiece was created and donated by sculptor William I. Sunderland, 75, a Baltimore native who lives in Atlanta.

Richard Sunderland, his brother and a congregant, said, "There's a spot in [the lamb's] paw where you can put a flower."

Abundant wild roses growing nearby gave plenty of petals for that purpose, planted amid native Maryland greenery. To enhance the effect of a river, a few large rocks are arranged along the edges that can serve as seats.

The memorial design was done by Floura Teeter Landscape Architects Inc., and the project was mostly funded by a $54,000 grant from TKF Foundation, an Annapolis nonprofit group.

Situated near a bus stop and a block away from the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus, the memorial's solace is intended not only for loved ones of deceased children, congregants said, but for all of Baltimore.

The catalyst for the congregation's concern was the 1997 fatal shooting of a boy, James Smith III, who died in a West Baltimore barbershop on his third birthday, Wolfenden said. Richard Sunderland, who has been active in the congregation since then, said there came a point when he and others who prayed and lit candles for children who were killed wanted to do more.

"We wanted to make it more public," he said. "We felt caught in the crossfire of Baltimore. And this is a more permanent remembrance."

jamie.stiehm@baltsun.com

The public is welcome at the memorial's dedication service at 4 p.m. today at 4 E. University Parkway.

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