Two years ago, nearly 1,000 people filled the gymnasium at Dexter Regional High School to mourn the death and celebrate the life of Amy Bagley Lake and her two children, Coty, 13, and Monica, 12. They had been shot by Lake’s estranged husband, Steven Lake, who then killed himself. Amy Lake, a kindergarten teacher in the district, had graduated as valedictorian in the same gymnasium where her funeral was held.
The bleachers at that time were packed with people wearing purple, the color of domestic violence awareness. Friends and family members shared their memories of the three.
“One victory that I see already in this tragedy is the help and outpouring of love from the community,” said the Rev. Will Walters then. “May I suggest that we continue this. May I suggest we trade our sorrows for service.”
Since that day, that’s the feat the Dexter community has committed itself to: trading sorrows for service. On Sunday, the sea of purple returned to the high school, only this time the nearly 1,000 people were there to organize the third annual Amy, Coty, Monica Memorial 5K Race/Walk to End Domestic Violence or take part in it to raise awareness about and money for victims of domestic violence.
Participants shared memories of the three. They spoke about the future. “It’s not just all about Amy, Coty and Monica, but it’s to make sure people in those same situations can hopefully get help,” said race organizer Kelly Gay, who was best friends with Amy Lake and worked with her for 17 years.
Domestic violence doesn’t have to result in death to have a stunning effect. In addition to the emotional heartbreak, it can affect the cognitive development of children, the economic development of an area and split extended families.
The attorney general’s office estimates the costs associated with domestic violence in Maine top $1.5 billion per year — including the costs of special education, mental health services, child protection services, law enforcement, judicial operations, the jail system and costs to employers for lost productivity. Each year, about 30,000 women and men are victims, according to the Maine Crime Victimization Survey.
It’s good to know the social and economic cost. But, like Walters and Gay said, it’s also important to recognize that loss can motivate change. The event on Sunday was an opportunity for the community to remember the Lake family and to do something active, together, to prevent the tragedy from happening to someone else.
It doesn’t mean there isn’t still great sorrow. There is. Rather, the event showed that people don’t have to be alone in their sorrow if they don’t want to. It showed a togetherness that is essential in the fight, or race, against domestic violence.