New Haven botanical garden serves as memorial for gun violence victims

New Haven

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The official dedication is not until Saturday, but News 8 got an early tour of New Haven’s newest garden. It is a living memorial to people who were taken from us much too soon by gun violence.

When you walk through the “Botanical Garden of Healing”, the names unfurl at your feet, carved into the bricks of the walkway.

“You have no other choice but to look at all the names,” explained Marlene Miller Pratt. “We have them separated by year so that you see how many have been lost each year.”

Hundreds of names of gun violence victims, dating back as far as the city’s computerized records go.

There, under 1998, is the brick for Gary Miller. He was just 20 years old when he was shot and killed. His mother, Marlene Miller Pratt, has seen too many crime scenes since then, and is one of the driving forces behind the garden.

“We have to take the city back and be those role models for the youth, and I’m hoping that this piece right here will let them see that, wow, we do have a problem,” Pratt said.

She knew that a garden was the best way to honor her son’s memory, and to give other grieving families a place to go.

“You see the greenery, you have the river over there on the side with fish in it,” Pratt said. “So, you see life, and you try to remember your children in the living versus the dead.”

Design firm Svigals + Partners created it with a “tree of life” at the center. The Urban Resources Initiative plants trees all around the city and will help with the upkeep, along with local volunteers.

“So that is really the ongoing engagement of the community to remember the lives lost by taking care of the garden,” said Colleen Murphy-Dunning, Director of URI.

They are also adding to the garden. Specifically, the list of victims. Unfortunately, 5 more bricks already need to be installed for 2021. Pratt is a high school teacher and is designing a middle school curriculum to teach children about the dangers of gun violence. She hopes this garden will mean fewer bricks in the future.

“Something has to be done in this city where we realize that it’s not okay for someone to take a mother’s child,” Pratt said.

At the dedication this Saturday, they will read all 650 names along the walkway. The address is 105 Valley Street. the dedication begins at 11 a.m. The public is invited to attend.

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