Tree of Angels ceremony honors victims of violent crime

County Court at Law No. 2 Judge Lynn Marie Johnson stands beside a Tree of Angels. Each angel represents a victim of violent crime.

The annual Tree of Angels Ceremony took place Tuesday evening at the Doss Heritage and Culture Center honoring victims of violent crime.

“This is a time we recognize that holidays can be difficult for victims and their families,” Parker County Attorney John Forrest said. “This event allows us to show our support for these victims, these individuals, that are part of our lives and community. This event will allow us to remember, include and support our victims of crime.”

The ceremony, which is put on every year by the Parker County Attorney’s Office, featured carols by the Mary Martin Christmas Choir, guest speakers, refreshments by Parker County REACT and the hanging of angels ornaments on the tree.

“A lot of things I get to see are very sad and I’m sure a lot of you here lived through what I get to deal with and that’s just unimaginable. Domestic violence is one of the most pervasive violations of human rights in the world — one of the least reported crimes and one of the greatest threats to our community — and I’m talking about violence against women and children,” 43rd District Court Judge Craig Towson said. “It knows no socioeconomic barrier, it knows no age and applies to young, old, rich, poor — to everyone. We all have to do much more to respond to the cries of justice of the women and children who suffer from the violent offenders.”

An opening prayer was given by Justin Allison of Greenwood Baptist Church and a resolution was read by Assistant County Attorney Renee Sanchez.

“Our office and the county attorney’s office and all of law enforcement work with victims of violent crime every day and frankly, one of the questions we get asked a lot is how do you do this every day? To be perfectly candid, victims of violent crime are really the reason that most of us do this. Being able to help somebody when they’ve gone through something that’s truly awful is really a very rewarding thing to be able to do, so we’re honored to be able to help those victims and do what we do on their behalf,” Assistant District Attorney Jeff Swain said. “This year for Christmas as you’re attending a candlelight service on Christmas Eve, as you’re opening presents on Christmas morning, remember victims of violent crime and if there’s one that is in your life in particular, remember them and don’t do it with sadness. This is a season where we’re celebrating, a season of joy, so I would like you to remember the joy that they brought to your particular life.”

In 1991, the Tree of Angels was initiated in Austin by Verna Lee, executive director of People Against Violent Crime, to recognize that the holiday season is a difficult time for victims and their families, according to the People Against Violent Crime website. On March 21, 2000, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office registered the Tree of Angels and on Nov. 9, 2000, former Governor George W. Bush proclaimed Dec. 4-10 as Tree of Angels Week in Texas.

“The response to violence must be immediate and I know for some of you that have been through that process, something happens and it can be a long time down the road before something is actually done in court. I can assure you the wheels of justice are grinding, but sometimes they grind very slow and that’s just the process of the courts and the system we have in the United States. It’s not a perfect system, but I truly believe that it is the best system in the world for criminal justice matters,” Towson said. “There can be no lasting peace when women and children suffer from emotional, sexual and physical abuse, and that’s something that should weigh heavy on all of our hearts. Everyone should go to bed at night feeling safe, protected and not concerned about what’s going to happen.”

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