The last time Cynthia Bruce saw her son, Marcus, alive he was sitting on his grandmother’s neighbor’s porch holding a little girl in his lap. Minutes later he was dead.

I met Cynthia through Mothers of Murdered Son and Daughters (MOMS) just months after Marcus was murdered. The new members of MOMS always stand out at the meetings. They wear a mask of pain and fatigue. Cynthia’s depression and exhaustion were palpable, but even more disturbing was the nearly plastic state of shock. Cynthia looked like she was trapped in the moment where she learned about Marcus’ death.

Cynthia is a primary school teacher in Baltimore. She is the epitome of strength and gentleness. She speaks with confidence, warmth and force in a slow melodic cadence with just a hint of her Jamaican roots.

Her mother came to the United States and worked as a domestic to save money to send for Cynthia in Jamaica. Like all mothers, she wanted a better and safer life for her children and she thought the United States was the promised land. She was concerned about raising young black men in Baltimore. She tells me, “Marcus was a good boy. He was never involved in crime or drugs, but that doesn’t stop a mother from worrying.  I tried to protect him.”

Cynthia moved with Marcus to a rural community north of Baltimore.  She bought a beautiful large home in an area without any crime.  She never imagined that violence would strike just feet from his grandmother’s home.

'Mom, I’ll be sitting right here waiting for you. I’m not going anywhere.’ Minutes later, her son was shot 19 times. #BehindTheStatisticsClick To Tweet


Cynthia was with Marcus the afternoon of his death. Before she left him on the neighbor’s porch, Cynthia pulled her black Mercedes up to the curb and called to Marcus three times. “On the third call, he turned to me with his big warm smile and said, ‘Mom, you ready?’  I told Marcus that I was headed to a viewing for my former principal’s sister, and that I would be right back to pick him up. He turned to me, with his big smile, looking like an angel and said, ‘Ok, Mom, I’ll be sitting right here waiting for you. I’m not going anywhere.’”

Shortly after she left, Marcus was shot 19 times in broad daylight on a street he considered a safe haven. Marcus died 11 days after his 23rd birthday on July 26, 2014.

Cynthia promised Marcus that once she retired from teaching they would head to Los Angeles so he could pursue his dreams of acting.  He was featured in many Baltimore theatre productions: Cats, Macbeth, The Wiz, Once an Island, The Lion King, and Little Shop of Horrors. He was a talented and amazing young man and his mother did everything to support his passion.

Cynthia blames herself every day. “If only I said, ‘Marcus, just come with me.  Come with me to the viewing.’ He would be alive today.”  Cynthia and her mother worked tirelessly to provide a better life for their children.  Cynthia never imagined that the last time she would see her youngest child alive would be steps from the home her mother bought to provide a better future for her children.

Marcus Tafari Samuel Downer: July 15, 1991- July 26, 2015

Liz Banach
Written by Liz Banach, Executive Director, Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence


  • Zoe Grover says:

    Thank you for sharing your story Cynthia. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.

  • Mimi Dean says:

    Sending love and light to you for healing.

  • Kathleen says:

    Cynthia, my thoughts are with you as you deal with your terrible loss. No parent should have to experience such tragedy. Sending loving thoughts your way.

  • Don Lococo says:

    Cynthia, I am so sorry for your loss. Your story of your son, Marcus is quite powerful. I wish our country had effective responses to senseless violence involving firearms.

  • Jodi says:

    I am so very sorry Cynthia. Thank you for sharing your story. Wishing you peace and strength!

  • Nancy Berkheiser says:

    Dear Cynthia, I am so sorry for your loss of Marcus. He sounds like a fine young man with amazing potential. I know you did all you could to nurture Marcus and keep him safe. It is not your fault you happened to leave him sitting on the front porch and not take him with you. I believe you have very happy memories of Marcus and the rest of your family to sustain you when you are down. I understand there is nothing worse than for a mother to lose her son. If I were there with you I would give you a big hug and let you tell me all about him and how you are feeling. I pray that you feel the loving arms of God surrounding forever. God bless you and keep you.

  • Gale says:

    May God bless you and your family. I’m so sorry this tragedy happened. I’m fighting to see that something changes and I’ll remember your story.

  • Joana says:

    Thank you for telling us your story. We need to hear about Marcus and the other victims of gun violence so we can finally decide to change things.

  • Cynthia Bruce says:

    Thanks everyone for taking time out of your busy schedule to share in our acceptance, absorption and change of life since the homicide of our sons. Your continued prayers and support will keep our lights shining.

  • Grace says:

    Thank you for sharing your son’s story with us. I am so sorry for your loss. You were and are a good mother and could not have prevented this. Live and peace to you and Marcus.

  • Danielle says:

    Thank you for being so open and allowing your story to be told. I really do believe that the voices of mothers in mourning and other breve survivors will bring change. I will do all I can to amplify the voices of all survivors and share your stories. I really do believe “Storytelling Saves Lives.” Blessings to you and yours.

  • Karen Cornish says:

    This is a nightmare that I know I will never awake from ! I am a victim as well. I met Daphne she is a great person to talk to.. we as mother’s now walk a path of devastation on the senseless murders of our sons and I’m not so sure this will ever stop! God Bless! For I do know and feel your pain soo well because I live it every day myself..

  • Tracie Nicholson says:

    I am beyond sorry for your loss. Your son sounded like an amazing person. I will never forget your story & will continue to think about you.

  • Cynthia Tuthill says:

    Cynthia, I am so so sorry for your loss and the suffering you are enduring every minute of every day. My heart goes out to you and I am trying my hardest to be active in preventing further gun violence. I honor you for sharing your tragedy.

  • Nikki says:

    I am so sorry for your loss, Cynthia. No mother should have to live through this; no innocent, vibrant young man should have his life lost to America’s gun problem. Thank you for sharing your story. ❤️

  • Jillian Bowden says:

    Dear Cynthia, My mother saw the piece on CBS this weekend and told me she saw you. I am heartbroken for you and your family. I know the pain you feel is unimaginable.

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