ATLANTA — Police are still searching for the person responsible for killing 12-year-old David Mack.
On what would have been his 13th birthday, the family held a balloon release in his honor. And just hours later, a candlelit vigil for the young boy ended with the family and several Atlanta leaders pledging to find his murderer.
“Taking away children who should be around a birthday cake, singing happy birthday and opening presents and now we are talking about a transition that happened too soon," said city council president Felicia Moore.
David's father, Darius, sat with his shoulders drooped at times, praying. His shoulders shuddering in the cold and from the pain of losing his child.
Next to him, David's grandmother Glenda sat front and center clutching a blanket, a heavy look on her face as she was occasionally hugged by city leaders and her other grandchildren.
Many others sat around the family at the outside vigil held at Hillsdale Chapel and Truth Center. The crowd sat for an hour praying, trying to make sense of yet another metro Atlanta child taken away so viciously.
“This happens all too much," said Darius. “When a child is lost, we all lose. Not just my child, not just our family, we all lose.”
Glenda spoke briefly, thanking the many people who reached out to her family. “Help us find and bring the person or persons to justice.”
The air was cold and thick with emotion as each speaker took the microphone, aware of the family's pain and sometimes - their own pain at losing someone.
“There won’t be any place for them to rest or lay their heads. They will be dealt with," said Afemo Omilani with Hosea Helps.
Just a few months earlier, Omilani shared his own grief and call for justice after losing his long-time friend, Thomas Jefferson Byrd, to gun violence. Here, at David's vigil, he promised to do whatever he could to help the family.
"2021 will not be like 2020," he said firmly.
In fact, many at the vigil held David close to their hearts, but also other children senselessly killed recently. In 2020, 22 children were killed by gun violence in metro Atlanta. Nationally, according to Gun Violence Archive, 1,369 children were killed by guns in 2020.
“I can’t even begin to tell you how many students within my district, that I had to say good-bye to, by murder, suicide, or illness," a tearful Erika Mitchell shared. Mitchell, a school board member, said her heart dropped when she received news of David's murder.
Over and over, a clear message was sent to the Mack family: you are not alone and help is here.
“The city has grieved with you," said Moore.
At the vigil, the family was presented with a check to help cover the expenses of David's funeral.