A mix of tears, laughter and applause accompanied a Thursday morning mural painting and celebration in Perry Hall High School's cafeteria. Its goal, less than five months after 17-year-old Daniel Borowy was shot and injured, was to take a space once filled with violence and fill it with love.
Over the past week, artist Michael Owen of the Baltimore Love Project worked with art students in the creation of a mural that spelled "LOVE" on the cafeteria wall. About 450 students and staff, who normally participate in the first scheduled lunch, during which the shooting occurred, contributed painted handprints to the mural on Thursday.
The mural was significantly different from Owen's past outdoor projects in Baltimore City neighborhoods. "We're always looking at how people interact with the murals and this response has been amazing ... I came in and spoke with the art honor society students about what they wanted to do. Logistically, it has a lot of hands in it, it's very personal," he said.
"We didn't think we'd get to be a part of something this big and monumental," said art student Janelle Pascual, who helped with the base mural.
"It was very touching throughout the project," added art student Brooke Herold.
Borowy, a special needs student who returned to class in November, was celebrated throughout the event. After accepting a signed Ravens jersey and a check for over $2,000, drawn from a collection by honor society students, Borowy spoke to the crowd. After a deep breath, he said, "Thank you."
"This was such a horrific thing that happened and so many people were affected—not just Daniel. Every person in this room, they all needed something to feel good about and this is definitely something to feel good about," said his mother Rosemary Borowy.
Around 2,500 T-shirts commemorating the event—funded through business donations organized by project chairperson Mary Kavanagh—were distributed to all of the school's students and staff. Food, music and video and photography services were also donated by area businesses.
Elected officials from state and county government—Sen. Kathy Klausmeier, Sen. J.B. Jennings, Del. Joe Boteler, Del. John Cluster, Del. Eric Bromwell, Del. Richard Impallaria, Del. Patrick McDonough, Del. Kathy Szeliga and Councilman David Marks—also presented a commemorative plaque during the event.
Principal George Roberts said the mural is part of the school's healing process. "I know it will help. It's something that will remind the kids of something happier, and it will be here for hopefully a very, very long time," Roberts said.
"Part of our vision was for this to be a culminating event for the community, the business community, everyone, to join the school in putting an end to this and moving on," he said.
The full list of more than a dozen major event sponsors is attached to this article as a PDF.