Mayor Scott W. Lang’s Address at Our Lady of the Assumption Church – Bernadette “Bunny” DePina
May 25, 2007
New Bedford, Massachusetts
Thank you Father Stan Kolasa, parishioners, friends and family of Bernadette. I want to acknowledge District Attorney Sam Sutter, City Councilors Brian Gomes and Viola Pina, School Committee member Ramona Silva, Judge John Markey, Police Chief Ronald Teachman and Deputy Police Chiefs Kevin Hegarty and David Provencher.
We try to find meaning and a sense of solace in tragic events. The murder of Bernadette DePina caused the people of New Bedford to take a very long, unvarnished look at the City, its values, and its sense of community. We saw raw anguish, but we also realized that Mrs. DePina’s death could be a turning point for New Bedford and its citizens.
Bernadette’s life was taken away by a violent, heinous act. It has been a year since the City has been without a vibrant, greatly loved member of our community. For the past year, the murderers have lived with the guilt of their mortal sin, or perhaps they are so cold and indifferent that they lack any semblance of humanity. If this is the case, they are wrong, they will live with their guilt and their shame for all eternity.
The people of this City demand that those responsible be identified, apprehended and brought to justice. Their crime was not only committed against Bernadette DePina, but against a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a mother, an aunt, a niece, a friend, a neighbor, a wife; it was committed against our entire community.
Such a cowardly act gave pause for insular reflection in each of us. First, we were shocked and saddened, then we mourned, and then we as citizens joined together in a series of marches organized by our faith community. These marches demonstrated our commitment to non-violence, tolerance and unity. We resolved, that never again would New Bedford allow one segment of our community to shoulder the grief of such a violent act alone. We resolved that never again would the citizens of New Bedford retreat in fear or silence from the cowardly acts of a few.
It was clear that each of us had a choice to stand for the goodness of man and to begin to communicate for the common good. We realized that we had an obligation to stand together to protect each other and to resolve that our City would be safe for all of our citizens. Our community realized that cooperating with those whose responsibility it is to protect us, ensures that justice will be rendered.
Over the past year, our City has connected as a community as it has not for many years. I believe that Mrs. DePina’s death fostered this spirit and the communication that has taken place among us.
A year later, the challenge that our society faces regarding violence continues to be daunting. We have a generation of young people who were raised in front of television sets and computer screens. Unfortunately in many cases, the glowing screen has replaced the guiding hand of loving, responsible family members and adults. A recent study of prime-time television indicates that our young people are being bombarded by inappropriate violent and sexual content at the rate of between 4 and 7 incidents per hour. These shows are then put into syndication and repeated in the afternoons and early evenings, affecting an even larger group of young people. A movie with a PG-13 rating often has content, that when we were young, would have been rated inappropriate for children.
The music our children are exposed to is no longer “raise your eyebrows rock-and-roll,” but rather, is extremely denigrating to women and often contains deadly violent lyrics.
Lastly, and perhaps more important than any other media influences, are the violent video games. These games desensitize our children to violence, and actually turn violent acts into entertainment. It is time that we turn these outside influences off. We must turn away from them. We must reconnect with our children. Responsible adults must take responsibility for our City’s youth–whether parents, family members and friends, teachers, clergy, mentors, or coaches. We must recognize that collectively, we are responsible for all of the children in our City. Spend a few minutes each day simply reinforcing the concept of right from wrong, the concept of treating others the way you want to be treated, the concept of giving respect, to receive respect, the concept that an act of kindness will be returned, the concept of non-violence, —teaching these simple lessons will change our City and society in a short generation.
The hope and the positive actions that we have seen over this past year by our community helps ease the pain that we felt one year ago today. I am sure that Bernadette’s horrific murder will always be viewed as a turning point in our City’s sense of community and as the beginning of our collective actions to bring about a safe City for all. A peaceful, non-violent unified city for all.