Ceremony Honors Lost Loved Ones

Monday, December 1st 2008, 9:44 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Families scarred by violent crime gathered Monday night to honor their loved ones. They're decorating some special trees this holiday season to remember lives cut short.

The three trees are strung with ornaments honoring victims and survivors of violent crimes.

News On 6 anchor Lori Fullbright emceed Monday's ceremony at Tulsa Community College's southeast campus. This is the second year for the Tulsa event.

Oklahoma City has had a similar program for years.

Larry Dean helped bring the ceremony to town.

Every bauble, every wreath, every angel represents a memory, a life, a family ripped apart.

Larry Dean brought out an egg for his daughter, Dena. His father started the tradition more than 40 years ago.

"The year before we lost Dena, the Christmas before, I had passed them down to her. The generation deal. And last year I decided to make one and hang on the tree in memory of Dena," said Dean.

When she was just 16, Dena never came home from work. Ten years later, her murder remains unsolved.

The Christmas after her death, Larry and his wife hung an ornament on a tree of honor in Oklahoma City. Last year, they helped bring the ceremony to Tulsa.

Last year, there were about 130 ornaments on the trees. This year they expect that number to double.

"I still get real emotional over it. But knowing that I might be doing something that helps somebody else get through the holiday," said Dean.

For the Lane family, it's not just a holiday, it's an anniversary. Their son T.C. was involved in a hit and run accident on Christmas Eve, five years ago.

"At Christmas time and holidays especially it's difficult and we just have to be here for one another not just as victims, but community members," said Nanette Lane.

There are no presents under the trees, but maybe nestled among the ornaments is a gift of peace for those left behind, a gift of hope for those still searching for answers and maybe a little healing.

Dean says it might be time to take those treasured eggs and bring back a family tradition.

"I think this year I might even hang mine on my tree at home. They haven't been on the tree in nine years now," said Dean.

The trees of honor will be up at TCC's Van Trease Center throughout the holidays.