“One Special Town, Two Special Trees” was the theme for the event Thursday in the Blountville Historic District.
The event had a celebratory tone, but it also was designed to draw focus to a more solemn part of the holidays for many families in the area: the absence of victims of violence.
Joan Berry, who helped launch the Victims Remembrance Tree as a part of the community tree lighting several years, threw the switch to turn on the purple-lighted tree. Purple is the symbolic color for remembering victims.
“Christmas is a special time, so it makes it hard for family members who have lost a loved one,” Berry said. “But we rejoice in the fact we’ve had them. And we’d rather have had them for the time we had them than to never have had them at all.”
Berry said the power of prayer, especially at this time of year, means much to her and others who have lost family members to violence.
“I’d like to wish you all a merry Christmas,” Berry said. “Enjoy your loved ones. Have a wonderful Christmas to be thankful for and let us remember the reason for Christmas.”
District Attorney General Barry Staubus, 2nd Judicial District, thanked everyone for coming out to the event.
“We are a community here tonight,” Staubus said. “And that means together we can remember those we know and those we don’t know. We also remember the times we had before they left.”
Staubus said although the friends and families of those lost to violence can’t be with them now, the Christmas season brings to mind “the confidence we have we will see them again.”
Anyone in the crowd was invited to come forward if they wanted to place an ornament on a wreath in memory of a loved one lost to violence. Within minutes, the wreath, which will be displayed inside the Blountville Justice Center throughout the month, was covered. Sullivan County Sheriff Jeff Cassidy placed an ornament on the wreath in memory of Sgt. Steve Hinkle, killed in the line of duty earlier this year.
The event was sponsored by the Sullivan County Department of Archives and Tourism and the partnership of the First Judicial District Attorney General’s Office and the local chapter of the Hope for Victims support and advocacy group. Christmas caroling was provided by the Blountville Middle School Choir, under the direction of Darren Malcolm