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Page 10 Medina Valley Times Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tree of Angels event brings victims of violent crime together Alicia Ramirez Staff Writer This past weekend, the 38th Judicial District held its inaugural Tree of Angels event to honor surviving victims of violent crimes as well as victim’s families by making it possible for them to place an angel ornament on a special tree. “Today we’re going to dedicate a tree, a Tree of Angels,” Chief Investigator Wayne Springer said. “The tree gives a voice to those who are no longer with us and to be in the presence of others who have suffered the crushing impact of crime. The tree allows us to remember, include and support the innocent victims of crime who are part of our lives and our communities.” The somber event was a part of a larger statewide event that was started

in 1991 by People Against Violent Crime and in 2000 it became a patented event and then Governor George W. Bush proclaimed Dec. 4 through Dec. 10 of that year, Tree of Angels Week in the state. The tradition has continued on since then with Governor Rick Perry issuing the proclamation this year for Dec. 2 through Dec. 8. “The holiday period should be the most joyous time of the year, but it can be an especially difficult time for the victims of violent crime and their families,” the proclamation read. “The Tree of Angels… has become a restorative and educational tradition in many communities throughout the state.” Families in attendance at the event included the extended Watters family, which lost a mother, a wife,

Before walking away from the tree, a woman kisses her hand and touches the angel for her lost loved one just one last time before the holidays. (Photo by Alicia Ramirez)

a sister and a daughter to murder, the Gorske family, which lost a son to a violent crime in La Coste and even Pastor Richard Sisk who had his own experience with a violent crime. “On Dec. 21, 1972, my brother, his wife, their fouryear-old son and 18-monthold son were driving from Houston to Lubbock to celebrate Christmas with our family,” he said. “[My brother] had gone through a rough time getting out of the army, had gone through a divorce and he and Cheryl had married and lived together for five or six years. He had a great job working at NASA in Houston. His life, their life was as good as it could get.” Just outside of Abilene, in the early morning hours, two drunk teenagers hit the vehicle head on, killing Sisk’s brother and his wife instantaneously and leaving their two children orphaned just days before Christmas. “That next morning, I sat my four-year-old nephew on my knee and he hadn’t said a word all night or all that day…and I said, ‘Mom and dad were hurt so bad that you won’t see them until you get to heaven,’” Sisk said. “I wanted to direct my anger at those two teenage boys who were drunk, but the problem was that their violence and their crime took both of their lives and the families that were left on that side had everything that they could deal with.” Kindred, Sheriff Randy Brown and Crime Victim Coordinator Dalia Arteaga lit the candles for peace, hope and healing before law enforcement officials, including Texas Rangers and sheriff ’s deputies, escorted those in attendance to the tree to hang their angels. “I thought I would never see my angel in a tree. The unexpected happened; why did it happen

For many surviving families of victims of violent crimes, the Tree of Angels gave them a chance to mourn the loss of their loved ones while holding onto a metaphorical part of them during the holiday season. (Photo by Alicia Ramirez) to me? My loved one taken away, what a dreadful day. Confusion reigned, anger and pain. What could anyone say,” Gorske read from the poem “My Angel in a Tree.” “The days, weeks and months that followed, my life, my heart, my soul left hollow…justice cannot bring back my loved one. Nothing done or nothing said can fill the void, the damage has been irrevocably done.” The ceremony ended with a number of hugs, connections amongst victims and a sharing of food during a small reception in the hall of the South Texas Regional Training Center. “We can’t turn the clock back and undo things, but we can try to deal with things the best way we can,” District Attorney Daniel Kindred said. “And we can’t fix it, but we want the families and victims to know that we haven’t forgotten them.” The tree will remain in the entryway of the STRTC for the remainder of the holiday season for the community to remember and honor those victims of violent crimes. “This is a difficult time

for a lot of people, but let this tree remind you that you are not forgotten,” Assistant District Attorney Julie Solis said. “What

you’ve gone through will never be forgotten and as a community, we can heal and look at this tree as hope.”

After lighting the Christmas tree with her brother Ozzie, Presley Watters, escorted by a Texas Ranger, places an angel on the Tree of Angels for her slain mother. The tree will remain at the STRTC for the rest of the holiday season. (Photo by Alicia Ramirez)


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