(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) -- With prayers and songs, family and friends of those lost to violent crime gathered at the Buchanan County courthouse Tuesday evening.
They were there for the annual Crime Victims Memorial Tree Lighting ceremony.
"The pain don't go away," said Kaylee Mitchell, who lost her best friend in a shooting earlier this year.
The tree at the courthouse is adorned with messages of love and peace along with loss and remembrance. Family members placed photos and other items on the tree to make sure that the memory of their loved ones live on.
"This is a way to make sure their loved ones that aren't going to be with them over the holidays are remembered, said Siobhan Jackson, a crime victim advocate for the prosecutor's office. "It's our way of saying this time is a joyous time of the year and we are thankful they were in this world and we remember those who are missing them and we wanted to honor them."
The number of photos on the tree is growing each year. Jackson said that 15 people have died in Buchanan County due to violent crime since the beginning of 2020.
In addition to remembering the crime victims, those who came to the tree lighting ceremony wanted to also send a message that violent crime isn't the answer to whatever might be going on.
"That violence, it ain't all that," said Tisheyea Williams, who was at the tree lighting ceremony in honor of two cousins, who she said were shot and killed in two separate incidents. "Sometimes you can talk it out, not killing somebody. It's not a video game. You can't reset."