Sunday marked seven years since the hate-inspired killing of Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue Village.
Compounding that lasting grief, Lucero’s surviving relatives buried his mother, Maria Rosario, just last month.
Bu to Marcelo Lucero’s brother, a part of their mom had already died in 2008.
“The day that my brother died, my mother was never the same again,” Joselo Lucero said at a vigil Sunday in Patchogue marking the tragedy. “A part of her died that day, too.”
“I don’t want anyone to ever have to go through this,” he continued. “Immigrants shouldn’t be afraid to live here. Our kids need to learn to respect each other and accept each other.”
Joselo Lucero had an audience of local students Sunday — where his and his family’s grief was on full display at the Plaza Cinema & Media Arts Center in the village.
There, the annual vigil emphasized the feelings and reflections of the youth, with student performances and different works of art from local teenagers decorating the theater. The vigil drew more people than the organizers had seats for. The group started the program off with a reflection of music, featuring a drum circle and singing.
Matthew Menis and Emily Yellen from the ninth grade religious school class at B’nai Israel Reform Temple in Oakdale shared their reflections on the tragedy.
“People are mistreated because of who they are,” Matthew said. “But no matter what group you belong to, each one is an important piece of the puzzle. People should appreciate all of the diversity we have in the world. We can really learn from each other.”
Emily said that her religion has taught her to be unbiased.
Patchogue Village Mayor Paul Pontieri shared his memories about first hearing about the attack.
“It was a Sunday morning at 11 a.m., just like today,” he said. He spoke of how so many members of the community came together in the days, weeks and months that followed — to mourn, and to raise awareness of racism and cultural intolerance.
The mayor recalled what Joselo Lucero told him seven years ago:
“It was a shame my brother had to die for us all to come together,” Pontieri said.
Lisa Votino-Tairrant asked before Sunday’s vigil why she keeps wanting to organize memorials to mark such a tragic, shameful event each year.
“There are some amazing youth in this community and the more you hear of these stories, the more it renews everyones spirit,” she responded.
The only way to ensure something like 2008’s fatal stabbing — the result of an ambush by seven teenagers — never happens again is to keep talking about it, she added.
She also pointed out that the high school- and middle school-age kids that performed Sunday were too young seven years ago to truly understand what happened to Marcelo Lucero. But now, they’re the same ages of the teenagers responsible for his death.
All the attendees ended the memorial service at the site on Railroad Avenue where Marcelo died. There, they laid flowers and lighted candles by his picture.
Some of the kids also let go of bio-degradable balloons as a prayer for peace.
The event ended with the crowd singing Amazing Grace.
Roger Spence of The Bellport Civic Engagement Workshop used Sunday’s event as a teaching opportunity, not only to the young people in attendance, but the adults.
“We all belong to one another,” Spence said. “What makes us think that we have the right to take away someones life? We could say things like, ‘Wish there were more people here,’ but I know I am not alone in my thoughts of peace. We can’t progress with hate.”
Photo: The group visited Railroad Avenue where Marcelo Lucero died. (Tiffany Rivera)