As around 80 people bowed their heads in Rebagliati Park on Saturday (June 20) during a minute of silence, the only sound was the distant rush of the Fitzsimmons River.
Following speeches from friends and family members of slain 19-year-old Burnaby resident Luka Gordic and touching songs sung by Frankie Cena, 19 white balloons were released into the air, one for every year that Gordic lived. Those in attendance all wore black t-shirts emblazoned with the date “5/17/15” on the back, the date the teenager was killed on Main Street in the Village. Four people have been charged with manslaughter in his death, including three 17-year-olds and 18-year-old Arvin Golic.
The vigil was held on the same day that Gordic and his family were going to take part in Tough Mudder under the team name “Family Matters.” On Saturday, his family did so under the new banner, #JusticeforLuka.
“Luka was the heart of our family and it pains us that we aren’t able to compete with him,” said Gordic’s sister, Danica. “We want people to be aware of the flaws in our justice system, not only so Luka may receive justice, but also so no family should endure the pain that we are going through. It is not right and something needs to change.”
Change was a sentiment that was echoed by Gordic’s uncle Gianni Buono.
“This afternoon we pray for Luka, but we also stand together to create awareness and change against senseless violence,” he said. “We’ll use the inspiration from Luka to make the world a better place and do that by communicating our message against violence.”
Gordic’s parents were unable to attend the vigil — just a few hundred metres away from where Gordic lost his life — for them it was much too close to the tragedy. Danica read a message from her parents to the crowd.
“We are truly suffering as we mourn the loss of our beautiful boy,” she read, fighting back tears. “Waking each day brings new waves of grief and we cannot describe how badly losing Luka has broken our family’s hearts. We are tormented by his painful death and shed unbearable tears at the thought of our sweet boy suffering. Luka was a loving person that brightened our lives. We now pray for Luka’s soul and that no family should have to endure the pain that we now feel. No person or family deserves such a fate.”
Surrounding the vigil table with Gordic’s photo and lit candles, printouts of social media posts covered the picnic tables, all from friends and family members sharing their special moments and photos of Luka.
“So many tears have fallen,” wrote family friend Ognjen Miskovic. “Watching the Serbian/Italian Community in pain just shows me how much you were loved and respected. No justice will ever be enough for any of us. Until we all meet again.”
Buono made his call to action clear during his speech, not just calling for change in the justice system, but also for Whistler’s management of the May long weekend.
“It’s (the Gordics’) hope that we can positively influence our community to change our laws in order to ensure safety and protection of all people, to make sure what happened to Luka in Whistler does not happen again,” he said.
The vigil ended with a walk by friends and family members from Rebagliati Park to the site of Luka’s death in Whistler Village.