HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Monday was an emotional day for families who have been impacted by homicides.

To mark the state’s first Survivor of Homicide Victims Awareness Month, several of those loved ones shared their stories and pushed for legislative change. 

Laquavia Jones’s 18-year-old son Da’Shown Myers was shot to death in 2020. Three years later, her 23-year-old son Dontae was also killed.

“I’m 41 and I’ve buried two of my sons,” Jones said. “Every day you have to pray. You have to ask God to keep you sane.”

Andy Reynold’s 9-year-old niece, Jessica Short, was at a Middletown street fair when she was stabbed to death in 1989. Reynolds said despite the decades that have passed, it’s a loss he will never be able to recover from. 

“(I’m) still traumatized even after all of that time,” he said. “…I still have her journals. Being 9, she loved everybody.”

Joined by state officials, about a dozen families including Jones’ and Reynolds’, shared their stories at the Hartford Legislative Building. The event comes after the state passed a statute earlier this year designating Nov. 20 through Dec. 20 as Survivor of Homicide Victims Awareness Month.

The month is meant to honor families who may be going through a tough time during the holiday season. 

“This is a month to reflect upon more policy changes we can make to make the people of our state feel safer,” Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said. 

According to Survivors of Homicide Inc., the service that supports survivors of crime, 12 immediate family members and friends are directly impacted when a life is lost to homicide.

Jessica Pizzano, the organization’s director of victim services, said as the only organization in Connecticut that solely works with secondary survivors of homicide, the organization is in desperate need of funding to support families.

“They are one of the most underserved populations of crime victims out there,” she said. “And often times, these are one of the first programs that tend to be cut.”

As for Jones, she is calling for judicial reform to change the process when it comes to those with criminal records and existing charges being released on bond. 

“When you get the legislators, and the judges, and the chiefs, and the police forces and the families and we all come back together, put God first and join task forces, there’s no way that this murder at this rate can continue to happen in nobody’s town,” Jones said.