There was cake on a table, a mistress of ceremonies with a microphone, a program printed on lavender paper and more than 100 people on hand, some of them holding cameras or video recorders.
In some ways, the ceremony on the third floor of the Prince George's County Courthouse in Upper Marlboro in late April had the festive air of an art opening.
But this was different.
What was about to be unveiled was draped in a black cloth.
The dozens of people present included spouses, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, boyfriends and girlfriends of Marylanders who had been murdered. They were joined by Prince George's State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey, along with more than two dozen prosecutors and victim's rights advocates.
The crowd gathered for the dedication of the Wall of Remembrance, a memorial bearing the names of approximately 2,000 Maryland residents who have been slain in recent years. Many of them were killed in Prince George's County.
After a brief ceremony, Ivey called for people whose loved ones had been slain to step forward to unveil the memorial. About a dozen did so.
The crowd cheered when the drape was pulled off, revealing three long, rectangular, wooden frames mounted on a wall near the state's attorney's office. The frames contain 17 panes of glass, each etched with the names of victims. The clear-glass panes rest against strips of black Formica giving the memorial a stark feeling.
Above the memorial, in block letters made of brass, reads the legend: "WE WILL REMEMBER THEM."
Some of the survivors wiped away tears at the sight of the memorial. Others beamed, pleased that their loved ones have been commemorated.
"I think it's absolutely fabulous," said Teresa Arnaud, whose husband, county sheriff's deputy James V. Arnaud, was shot to death in August 2002. Arnaud, 53, and sheriff's deputy Elizabeth L. Magruder, 30, were slain in Adelphi by a man they were trying to take into custody for a psychiatric exam.
"We have a wall for law enforcement officers [who died in the line of duty], but this is for everyone," Arnaud, 55, said. "It's very emotional seeing this. It'll be there forever."
The creator of the memorial, Oliver Smith Sr., 55, took in the emotional scene and beamed. "It's overwhelming," he said. "It just reinforces my personal commitment to do this as long as I'm alive."
In brief remarks before the unveiling, Ivey told the crowd, which included about a dozen assistant state's attorneys from his office, that prosecutors sometimes become burned out working long hours for little pay.
"I think you can come out here [to the memorial] and recharge your batteries very quickly," Ivey said.
The memorial's new display space came about because of a chance meeting. But for that meeting 14 months ago, the memorial might have remained forever inside a room in the Cheverly home of Smith, its creator.
During a memorial service for victims of violence at the College of Southern Maryland in La Plata in April 2003, Ivey asked Smith about his memorial, which was displayed on a table. Smith created the memorial in 2000, three years after his son, a D.C. police officer, was murdered in Prince George's.
Smith told Ivey he kept the memorial in his sunroom but brought it out for special occasions, such as memorial events for victims of violence.
Ivey suggested to Smith that they try to find a permanent home for the memorial in the Upper Marlboro courthouse. During the ensuing year, Ivey talked periodically to William D. Missouri, chief administrative judge of the Circuit Court, about the idea.
Ivey had suggested putting the memorial in the courthouse's ground-floor atrium.
Missouri said he was concerned that a defense attorney whose client had been convicted might raise the memorial on appeal as possibly prejudicial to the defense, saying that it created sympathy for a victim or a victim's relatives and prejudiced the juror against the defendant.
So Missouri and Ivey kept looking for a suitable place, and decided on a wall in the third-floor hallway, adjacent to the office of the state's attorney's, the county's chief prosecutor. It is a location that jurors, even those who serve on trials on the third floor, typically do not pass.
"It's out of the way but still accessible to the public," Missouri said.
Finding a home for the memorial is another milestone in Smith's searing, emotional journey from enraged crime victim to victims-rights stalwart.
That passage began in the predawn hours of Feb. 26, 1997.
That night, Smith's son, D.C. police officer Oliver Wendell Smith Jr., was shot to death in the parking lot of his Forestville apartment complex. Wendell Smith was coming home after completing a work shift. He was killed during a robbery, after the bandits discovered his police badge.
Three men were arrested in the slaying. One defendant pleaded guilty and agreed to testify for the state. A second defendant pleaded guilty after his trial ended in a hung jury. A third defendant was found guilty after a trial. Each of the killers was sentenced to life in prison.
The elder Smith, a retired communications engineer, attended every day of the two trials, which collectively lasted about a month, seeking justice for his son. His steadfastness exacted a toll. Smith said he was in court for at least 20 days, including pretrial hearings.
Smith experienced back and neck pain and lost much of the feeling in his right hand. A doctor told him the muscles around his neck had become so tight from stress that they had dislocated two vertebrae.
The physician had Smith call another of his patients, a woman whose son had also been a homicide victim. She advised him not to hold onto his anger, that it would only harm him.
During one of the trials of one of the defendants in his son's slaying, Smith spoke with the father of the defendant, Donovan Strickland. Strickland's father apologized for his son's actions, then broke down crying as Smith consoled him. Smith told Strickland's parents that he realized they, too, had lost a son.
In October 1999, Smith took a glass-carving class in Silver Spring. On his mind was the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in the District, for police officers killed in the line of duty.
Although he had no experience, Smith got to work, carving the names of homicide victims into glass panes. A friend, Paul Oliver, a retired D.C. police officer who has lost three relatives and a close friend to homicide, pitched in, volunteering his time and purchasing some of the materials.
By April 2000, Smith had a dozen clear-glass panels, with the names of nearly 800 homicide victims carved into them. The memorial was displayed that month at a luncheon at the Greenbelt Marriott Hotel commemorating Marylanders who had been slain during the last 30 years.
During the last four years, Smith has continued to work on the memorial, carving more names into panels, about 100 a month. He has displayed the memorial at special events, such as the commemoration for National Crime Victims Week at the College of Southern Maryland last spring. Smith has also displayed it at churches, including the one he attends, Village Baptist Church in Bowie.
But until recently, the memorial was mostly displayed in the sunroom of the Cheverly home Smith shares with his wife, Cynthia.
At the courthouse unveiling, the approximately three dozen relatives and friends of homicide victims included people whose loved ones' death had commanded much public attention and others whose loss was not noted in the press.
Some present had slain relatives whose names had not yet been etched into the work.
Regardless of how much public attention the slayings of their loved ones generated, the gathered survivors said they were glad the memorial has a permanent home.
"It gives me a warm, good feeling," said Wayne Price Sr., 56.
Price said his son, Wayne Price Jr., 32, was killed in April 2002 in Wicomoco County by four men who broke into his home to rob him. After the memorial was unveiled, Price ran his fingers over his son's name, carved into one of the glass panels.
"It's hard to describe," Price said. "It's a joy to know you can come here any time and touch his name."
Margery Patten said she plans to bring other family members to view the memorial. The name of her son, Michael Patten, is etched on one of the panels.
Michael Patten, 29, a bank employee, and Lea Ann Brown, 24, a Navy petty officer, were kidnapped in Fort Washington and shot to death in a highly publicized attack in June 2001.
"I think it's a wonderful tribute," said Patten, 62. "People think you've gotten over it. But it's something that never leaves you."
Missouri said he plans to view the memorial with his wife, Delores. The name of one of Delores's cousins is etched on the glass.
The cousin, Prince George's police Officer Carlton X. Fletcher, was providing off-duty security at a Greenbelt convenience store when he and an assistant manager at the store were killed with a shotgun during a robbery in June 1983.
Lea Ann Brown
Carlton X. Fletcher
Elizabeth L. Magruder
Wayne Price Jr.
Smith Jr.The names of victims of violence are etched in class and mounted over a stark black background. The Wall of Remembrance hangs on the third floor of the courthouse, near the state's attorney's office.