ABC's Diane Sawyer holds town hall on Chicago violence

October 18, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Tonya Burch clutches a photo of her son, 19-year-old Deonte Smith. He was killed three years ago while attending a block party. His murder is still unsolved. Burch is reminded of her loss every time she looks at the daughter he left behind that she now raises.

"Our youth should be burying us. We shouldn't be burying them," Burch said. "I kind of feel that if everybody works together -- if you don't know the child, just talk to them and see what's on their mind, get into their head and figure out what's going on with them -- let them know you love them."

Burch's story is just one of many ABC veteran news anchor Diane Sawyer listened to during a town hall meeting at St. Sabina church. Sawyer also visited some neighborhoods where violent crimes are on the rise.

"We came to listen and what we heard I think is so powerful, and I really do believe the first thing we have to do is wake everybody up again and to the help that is needed," Sawyer told ABC7.

After opening the doors of his church to house the event, Father Michael Pfegler made history when he brought together neighborhood factions and professional athletes to play basketball in the church gymnasium in what he called a peace tournament.

"We had - what - 244 killed since January in Chicago? 154 killed in Afghanistan since January? This is an issue, and I think it's not going away and I think we have to deal with it - to face it," Pfleger said.

Joseph Robinson, 21, came to the town hall from Joliet to give a voice he says for young people. The college senior says this discussion has value.

"It takes a personal decision to understand that I don't want to do this anymore and that's how it's going to happen," said Robinson.

"This is Chicago; we love Chicago so much, and, again, these are children who are going to be getting up tomorrow, a lot of them, and we need to be there - all of us need to be there," Pfleger said.

Sawyer admits there is no overnight solution and she understands concerns from residents who feel this national television attention and exposure is only temporary. But she says she hopes the conversation is enough to spark new action to help save lives.

The ABC News special reports will air Thursday on World News with Diane Sawyer and Friday on World News and a special edition of Nightline.

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