By Jade Ortego
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON – In October of 2004, a Killeen woman lost her best friend in a drunk driving accident, and found out her former husband molested her children and their friends. She put many angels on the tree Tuesday night, and one was for herself.
At the sixth annual Tree of Angels ceremony, about 300 gathered to hang ornaments in remembrance of family and friends who were victims of violent crime.
"That it is so wet, cold and miserable tonight is a testament to the resiliency you have, to see to it in a very public way that their lives are not forgotten," said Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza.
The Bell and Coryell Counties Crime Victims' Coalition puts on the event at the Bell County Expo Center, and each year, chair Jill Hargrove said, they see familiar and new faces.
"You're faithful to yourself and your survivorship," Hargrove told the crowd. "Thank you for being here, for supporting one another."
While people began hanging ornaments on the tree, the names of the 13 people killed in the Nov. 5 shootings at Fort Hood were read. The victims' names were not known to the public before the coalition sent out invitations to the event, so their families did not attend.
Brooke Jones of Academy was present to honor her father, who was killed in 1999 by a drunk driver.
"It makes me feel more connected to him," Jones said. "I've not missed one year."
Randy Miller has come for the past six years to remember his friend, Glen Hilton Rummel, a father of three who was the victim of a murder-for-hire. Rummel's wife is serving time at the Gatesville Prison. Miller said he and Rummel were best friends since they were 6.
"He never was in no trouble," said Rummel's mother, Irene Rummel, of Cameron.
"It tears me up. He was precious."
The Killeen woman sat alone. People came with her in the past, but they dwindled away over the years.
"You see the same people, sit in the same chair," she said. "You know faces, but not names."
She said she felt ill today, but it was just her nerves.
"My arms felt heavy. But my angels were all there, and they all go up every year," she said.
After the ornaments were hung, the crowd stood holding candles in the dim assembly hall. In unison, the bereaved spoke the names of those they were there to honor, and blew out the flames.