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Victims remembered at annual ceremony

December 13, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Cynthia Smailes-Rybak lost her daughter, Amanda Smailes, 21, to a drunken driver more than nine years ago.

Margaret Walker lost her only son, Terry, 17, to an impaired driver more than three years ago.

And Randy and Mary Stewart's only child, Miana, 14, was murdered two months ago in their home.

They were some of the 15 or so people who attended a memorial service Monday night to remember those killed as the result of a violent crime, including drunken driving.

The 45-minute ceremony was organized by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and held outside of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library. It included bell-ringing performances by the Shenandoah Junction United Methodist Charge, prayers and poem-readings. Paper stars with the names of victims hand-written on them were hung on the Christmas tree in front of the library.

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Those in attendance also held lighted candles.

A public "thank you" was voiced to state, county and city police officers, a few of whom attended.

"As MADD's victims advocate and as a mother, I'd like to say thank you," Smailes-Rybak said to the officers.

Smailes-Rybak, whose daughter was killed by a drunken driver on U.S. 11 in 1996, said after the ceremony that other families had planned to attend, but found it to be too difficult.

"These are very hard. We're here to support them," she said. "This (drunken driving) is a violent crime and we are losing loved ones."

MADD counsels not only those who have lost loved ones to drunken driving, but also families of those who die as the result of violent crimes. When needed, support meetings are held at Trinity United Methodist Church in Martinsburg.

Since losing her only child in the summer of 2002 to a man later convicted of driving under the influence of cocaine, Margaret Walker has talked to high school students about the dangers of driving impaired.

She also speaks during victim impact panel meetings to those convicted of driving under the influence.

"I'm there to talk to them. I hope they will not do it again because you never know when their luck will run out," she said.

Although Walker originally planned to read a poem during the ceremony, she found herself unable to, worried she would cry.

This is the first time Walker has attended the event, which is held annually.

"I needed to be here, to be a part of this," she said.

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