NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Friday marks National Gun Violence Awareness Day and the start of “Wear Orange” weekend.
It comes as gun violence in New York City continues to rise.READ MORE: NYPD: Delivery Worker Stabbed To Death, E-Bike Stolen Near Sara D. Roosevelt Park
After a year plagued with gun violence here in New York, National Gun Violence Awareness Day brings on special meaning.
People are speaking out on social media against gun violence and wearing orange to draw attention to the problem, from survivors like former House Representative Gabby Giffords to family members who lost their loved ones.
“I’m tired of going with families to pick out their kid’s casket,” Harlem resident Maria Lopez told CBS2’s Jessica Layton. “It hurts.”
Working at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, Lopez sees the devastation caused by bullets every day while still grieving her father, who was shot and killed when she was young.
“I still cry like it was yesterday,” she said.
Even her 11-year-old daughter, Alexis Harris, is conscious of the crisis, knowing a stray bullet knows no age or name and could end anyone’s life on any city block.
“You never know you’re just, like, walking in the street and then there’s a shooting and you try to run away from it and you just get, like, killed right there,” she said.
Watch Kiran Dhillon’s report —
In Flatbush, Brooklyn, just hours before her wake Friday, some of Shalimar Birkett‘s family members wore orange while gathering to comfort one another.
The 32-year-old was attending a memorial for a friend who had been shot and killed at a party in Brownsville, Brooklyn, in mid-May when police say she was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting.
“We don’t want her death to be in vain. That it means something,” cousin Harriet Hines said.
“She was always smiling, always full of life,” Terriel Scanterbury said.
Police believe Birkett, a mom of two young boys, was an innocent bystander when she was shot.READ MORE: Gabby Petito Foundation Holds Fundraiser On Long Island
“The grief is in my heart deeply, and it’s something that I can’t really express,” father Haile Mariam said.
Birkett’s death comes on the heels of a large spike in gun violence in the city.
As of Thursday, there have been 585 shootings year to date, compared to 344 during the same period last year.
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark can’t bear to see another family in pain.
“We are outraged,” she said.
She says more action must be taken.
“People feel more emboldened because they think that the police can no longer do their job with all this ‘defund the police’ stuff,” Clark said. “We cannot fight this pandemic, the epidemic of gun violence, without the police.”
Leaders say more resources are needed to curb the violence, especially in at-risk communities.
“It’s the resources. We need to make sure that we have trade jobs for our young people, that we have hubs to send them to so that they can continue to grow and learn and have some activities,” City Council Member Farah N. Louis told CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon.
Birkett’s family agrees.
Police have yet to make an arrest in her death.
The family wants to see more police engagement in communities, along with stricter gun laws.
“What can we do as a community to make sure that our children are safe? And that takes a conversation, that takes planning, that takes strategic action,” Scanterbury said.
They say change might not bring Birkett back, but at least it will prevent more senseless deaths.MORE NEWS: Police: Suspect In Killing Of New Rochelle Taxi Driver Taken Into Custody After Shootout In Brooklyn
CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon and Jessica Layton contributed to this report.