By STEVE SALDIVAR
Ninety-seven white balloons rose up from the Mission District yesterday afternoon, representing the number of homicides in San Francisco in 2005.
Although the vigil to commemorate the third anniversary of the murder of Brian Marquez was planned weeks ago, it fell in the middle of a recent murder spree in the Mission that has seen seven homicides in the past two weeks.
“Anybody can get shot in any given time,” Luis Marquez, Brian’s father, said with urgency. “Anywhere,” he said, as he pointed to all the street corners.
The mostly older women and their young children who attended the vigil tried to understand why so many teenagers are being swept up in the street violence and why so few came out to remember Marquez, a tattoo artist who was murdered in 2005.
“We’ve lost several generations of our children,” said Aurora Grajeda, a resident of the Mission District since 1969. “We have some generations that’s too late for them,” Grajeda said.
She blamed the violence on a lack of opportunities in the neglected community. “When you have communities where children don’t have prospects, what you end up with is a subculture element,” Grajeda said. “There’s too much idle time in their hands.”
Norma Marquez, Brian’s mother, wondered why more of Brian’s peers failed to come to the vigil.
“From one mother to another, I don’t have my oldest son,” Marquez said. “Many of you have your sons in the house. They did not come out to support tonight.”
A better relationship needs to be forged between cops and community, said Marcos Gutierrez, a radio host for 1010AM, who attended the vigil.
“People don’t care,” he said. “They think it’s somebody else’s problem until one of their own gets hurt. People are busy working hard and raising kids in the proper manner, and they’re practically in denial.”
Gutierrez attributed the lukewarm attendance to apathy. “They excuse themselves from feeling bad about it by looking for excuses as to why it happened,” said Gutierrez.
Citing gang involvement and drug use, the Spanish radio host believes the community has granted its conscience an out. “We seek excuses for justifying what is going on.”
As the 97 white balloons were distributed to those attending the vigil, a Hail Mary was recited, led by eight-year-old Miguel Marquez, Brian’s brother.
Young men, driving through the narrow street of Alabama where the mourners stood, stopped to poke their head out before driving away.
“In reality, it’s great,” said Luis Marquez. “We’re small but we’re all big in heart.”
After the prayer, the attendees released the balloons. Luis Marquez leaned his head back, like he had done for the previous two vigils, and took in the scene.
“There go many of our children.”