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'It's a time we pray': East St. Louis teachers, community honor lives lost in mass shootings

Community leaders are calling on lawmakers to pass tougher gun control measures.

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. — Teachers in East St. Louis joined community leaders Wednesday evening in reflecting on the lives lost in Uvalde. They also remembered the victims of other mass shootings across the nation. Now they’re calling on lawmakers to pass tougher gun control measures.

When you hear of these events playing out over and over again, it can take a toll. That's the message from an East St. Louis community that believes something can be done to put an end to it.

Listening to a vocalist belt out the lyrics “what about the children”, the community came out to grieve the deaths of 19 children and two teachers killed at school in Uvalde Texas. They gathered outside of the East St. Louis Federation of Teachers building wearing orange to stand in solidarity.

"It's a time we pray for the lives of our children,” Organizer Peggy Lewis LeCompte said.

The recent mass shootings from Texas to New York to Oklahoma have them saying enough.

"Shots ring out, flags are at half staff, but there doesn't seem to be a solution to the gun violence that's plaguing our country…We need our Congress people, our Senators, our elected officials to take a stance,” said organizer Reginald Riddle-Young.

"It won't end until we as citizens let them know that we're not going to take it anymore,” said Terry Turley with the Federation of Teachers.

For educator Sherry Tolson, it’s emotional. Although she works at Dunbar Elementary School, she realizes these mass shootings could have happened anywhere. It's why she takes her job working with young kids so seriously.

"A lot of times they're not getting the support that they need…Situations that people are going through on the inside that cause them to lash out or things that can be prevented if there's somebody that's there for them,” she said.

Tolson came to the event to reflect on the lives lost. She joined her neighbors in praying for the victims. In the end, they released balloons into the air signifying unity and hope for better days.

The event was organized by the Metro East St. Louis Committee Against Domestic Violence and the Federation of Teachers. Their theme was “A Time for Healing”. Area ministers were on hand praying for the community to do just that, heal and somehow move forward following the unimaginable.

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