HOLD UP THE LIGHT—Lueana Coward, along with family and friends her three sons, Harry Coward, James Jones and Don Jones, hold up candles lit in their honor at an April 16 vigil on Ferndale Avenue in Duquesne. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
The loss of one child is devastating; the loss of three is unbearable.
It is exceptionally hard when the loss is due to the growing urban epidemic of gun violence. This is the pain that Lueana Coward, of McKeesport, feels everyday from the loss of her three sons-Harry Coward, James Jones and more recently, Don Jones.
It all began May 11, 2001 when Harry Coward, then 18, was shot and killed while attending a cookout near the intersection of Fifth Street and Ferndale Avenue in Duquesne. He was shot multiple times while leaving the party after an argument had erupted between him and another man.
Then more than four years later, on Dec. 11, 2005, James Jones, then 17, was shot in the back, outside of a North Side building where he and his sister were waiting for two men they had agreed to drop-off on their way to a local mall to do some shopping.
And on April 16, 2012, almost 11 years from his first brother’s murder, Don Jones, then 19, was shot multiple times in the 500 block of Ferndale Avenue, in Duquesne, where he had reportedly been with friends. It was down the street from Harry Coward’s death. He later died at a local hospital.
Recently, at the location and on the one-year anniversary of Don Jones’ death, Coward held a candlelight vigil recognizing her sons’ deaths and those who have lost someone to gun violence.
“The idea of not seeing them for the rest of my life on earth, it’s an emptiness and a hurt that I can’t explain. I have a three-life sentence,” said Coward. “(There) is nothing like the grief of losing a child. It is a whole different feeling. Nothing can take the place of them. For the rest of my life I’ll never forget them.”
While Coward, a mother of six: three girls and three boys, said she can never bring her son’s back, she is using her pain to help others. In 2009, she co-founded the RELIEF (Recognizing Every Lingering Inward Emotional Feeling), a nonprofit support group with the purpose of supporting those who are struggling with the grieving process. “No one has to struggle alone,” she said.
Along with RELIEF, Coward has also written a book called “Unexpected Events” and an anti-violence song, and is a motivational speaker. She said she feels that she was ordained by God to help others and that helping others helps to her find healing.
Although the homicide of James Jones has been solved and the individuals are serving time, unfortunately both Harry Coward and Don Jones’ homicides are still unsolved. Coward believes that there are individuals with answers as to who killed her children, but are not coming forward because of what she calls the “G-code,” where people have information, but do not talk. It is similar to that of the “No Snitching” street rule.
“We (Coward and her family) live in hope that somebody will realize that this is about life; and that somebody who knows something might come forward because one day they might need someone to forward for them,” she said.
With all that she has been through Coward said she will continue to honor her sons’ lives and spread a message of non-violence. “I believe in my heart that this journey is not over.”
(For more information on RELIEF, visit www.lueanacoward.com.)
A MOTHER’S PAIN—Lueana Coward speaks about the loss of her three sons to gun violence. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
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