Tracy Martin, the father of the Florida teenager killed last year in what a jury ultimately ruled was a case of self-defense, told lawmakers today that he will never get over his son's death - but he hopes to use his family's loss to start a national conversation on the American judicial system.
During the inaugural hearing of Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys, Martin called his son, Trayvon Martin, his hero and expressed regret that he was not present to help him when he encountered George Zimmerman on the night of Feb. 26, 2012.
"Just to have your son's life taken away from you when you've molded him in becoming an upstanding citizen of this country - it's heart-wrenching. That's something that you can never get over," he said. "Not to be there in his time in need is real troublesome."
Martin said he hoped to spread a "message to the world" that the not-guilty verdict earlier this month will not "sum up who Trayvon was."
"I vow to do everything in my power not to give up the fight for him - not only to fight for Trayvon but to fight for so many other young black and brown boys of this country," Martin said.
Martin said President Obama's recent comment that 35 years ago he could have been in Trayvon's shoes "was so important to the American people" and "really touched home."
"It's moments and comments such as the president made, it sparks the conversation in every household over the dinner table," he said. "And that conversation is: What can we do as parents, what can we do as men, what can we do as fathers, what can we do as mentors to stop this from happening to your child?"
Martin said that there are "positive things" that can come from his son's death, and pledged to use the experience to advocate against "senseless crime" and "senseless gun violence" through the Trayvon Martin Foundation.
"We're going to have mentoring programs. We want to try to educate our communities on the Florida statutes, on the Florida laws that really we need to understand how these laws apply to ourselves," he said. "We want the members of Congress to hear we are the voice for Trayvon. Trayvon is not here. There's nothing that we can do to bring Trayvon back, but if there's something that we can do as a foundation to help other families from going through this, then we're here."