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Holiday gathering to honor lives lost in violence

By Bianca Montes
Nov. 30, 2013 at 5:30 a.m.
Updated Dec. 1, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.

Angella Salas sifts through a memory box of her daughter, Loriean June Fernandez, as she remembers  the passing of her daughter.

If you go

• WHAT: Tree of Angels ceremony

• WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday

• WHERE: Bauer Community Center, 2300 state Highway 35 in Port Lavaca

• CONTACT: Mary Sue Woods at 361-552-2091 or 361-550-7481

PORT LAVACA - Angella Salas has hung the same snowflake ornament on the Tree of Angels for almost a decade. But over the years, the jeweled trinket began to fade.

This year, she and her seven children will make a trip to a local craft store to pick up new accessories just in time to deck up another ornament for her baby, Loriean June Fernandez.

Salas said her daughter was murdered in a senseless act of violence. This year marks the 10th anniversary.

On Tuesday, more than 160 lives lost to violent crime will be honored at the 12th annual Tree of Angels ceremony. The observance begins at 7 p.m. at the Bauer Community Center in Port Lavaca.

The state event is designed to provide a place for families to "remember their loved ones at Christmas," said coordinator Mary Sue Woods.

In 2010, Dec. 4 through Dec. 10 was proclaimed Tree of Angels Week in Texas by former Gov. George W. Bush.

The event is observed across the state.

Officers from several Crossroad counties will serve as ushers during the Port Lavaca ceremony. District Attorneys from Victoria and Calhoun counties will speak at the event.

Salas' 16-year-old daughter Samantha will perform a rendition of "Read All About It" by Scottish recording artist Emeli Sande for her sister.

The lyrics "we're all wonderful, wonderful people, so when did we all get so fearful" stuck out to her because she and her family do not believe guilt should be associated with sorrow.

"The pain is never ending," Salas said. "It's constant."

Salas freely admits that she spent many years lost in pain, but kindling a stronger relationship with God and attending the ceremony every year has helped her heal.

"For years, I was very upset at myself," she said, claiming that she finally came to grips with the fact that her daughter's death wasn't her fault.

"I was making myself sick, and I wasn't being the mother I needed to be for my other children," she said. "I had to let that go - you have to let yourself heal."

However, Salas said healing doesn't mean forgetting your child.

"She was here. She was mine. I'm not going to forget her, and I'm not going to let anyone else forget her," she said.

Not in sadness, she said, but in joy. "Tree of Angeles gave us a place to remember her - a place for everyone to remember her. It makes sure she is not forgotten."

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