The Jefferson County Crime Victims Coalition honored crime victims Dec. 5 at the Tree of Angels ceremony at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Beaumont.
This is the 17th year of the event that provides people a moment to trim a tree at the courthouse for those who lost someone to crime and those whose are victims of crime. Ornaments, primarily angels, were placed on the tree to honor the past and pay tribute to the future.
“Many of us suffer a feeling of loss during the holiday season,” said Chris Castillo, Coordinator of Chaplain Volunteers for the Criminal Justice Ministry at the Diocese of Beaumont. “So this is a way to turn that into a positive by bringing people of like minds together to share in a moment of joy.”
The Diocese of Beaumont is one of several agencies that are part of the coalition, according to Castillo, who became involved with the coalition before he began working for the Diocese.
When Castillo was 17 years old and working at a fast-food restaurant someone pulled a gun on him and robbed the place. Years later his mother, Pilar, was murdered in her Houston home in 1991. She was 52. The case remains unsolved. Anger and depression hung over him for years after her death. But through his involvement with crime victims and mentoring inmates in prison, he has turned his loss into healing for himself and others.
The evening at the courthouse included testimonies about loss and survival.
Wanda Grimes, whose son Jeramy was a passenger in a car that crashed in a DWI-related accident, turned to poetry to help deal with his death. She read a poem at the event titled “Christmas in Heaven.”
Grimes has attended Tree of Angels every year it’s been held. She said the event reminds her how much the loss still hurts but added that the event is important because it helps.
“You never get used to it,” she said when she looks at his picture. “You think you’ll get used to it. But you don’t.”
Jeramy was killed just a few weeks shy of his 21st birthday.
Despite the pain it brings, she’ll continue to memorialize him.
“September 11th, people remember that,” said Grimes. “Why would remembering my son be different for me?”