Ceremony welcomes locals to stand with victims of violence

Visitors hang memorial ornaments on the Rusk County Tree of Angels in December 2017. The next observance is Thursday, Dec. 13.

“It's easy when a situation happens to send thoughts and prayers at the time.

It's important, Salena Turner says, to stand beside victims and survivors in the days, weeks, months and years after their personal tragedies.

With the 13th annual Rusk County Tree of Angels on Dec. 13, the Crime Victims Coordinator hopes locals will build on their thoughts and prayers to gather at the Rusk County Justice Center with those touched by violent crime – families and friends of victims, survivors and others.

“People tend to normally think of these families during the holiday time, because they feel that's the most difficult time for them to work through what they're going through because they're missing that family member, Turner said. “It's an everyday situation these families are having to deal with.

“I always stress for more of the community to come out. If the community comes out, it shows we remember, and we support them.

It's a poignant ceremony marked by individual remembrances of victims of violent crime, special ornaments hung on a memorial tree, the tradition mixed with testimony – difficult to hear but uplifting as well.

Set for 6:30 p.m. that Thursday evening in the Henderson courthouse at 210 Charlevoix St., the event typically draws 60-70 people.

As time goes on, “We have more victims' families there. Normally they're hanging an ornament in place of a deceased family member they've lost. Normally they have a lot of support along with them, Turner said. “We have a lot of law enforcement there. Our elected officials are there.

In addition to comforting and encouraging victims and survivors, it's also an opportunity to join their pursuit of justice.

Some people in the crowd are connected to cold cases. Some are linked to ongoing investigations. Some have seen the inside of courtrooms as the suspects who harmed or killed their loved ones go on trial.

“When we're showing up as the District Attorney's office, it shows we hate we haven't been able to help in the way as far as getting justice for it, but we still support you, Turner said. “I think they appreciate it more that we're there.

The ceremony is open to all who wish to attend. A reception will follow the event. Anyone who needs additional information can reach Turner at 903-657-2265 or Marie Martin of Victims & Survivors Against Violent Crimes at 903-722-2151.

All ornaments in honor of a victim or survivor should be identifiable by name prior to the ceremony; tags will be available in addition to extra ornaments.

Learn more at treeofangels.net.

Kilgore News Herald

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