Duval County residents gathered Tuesday for the 17th annual Tree of Angels ceremony in memory of violent crime victims, survivors of violent crimes and their families.

“With the holidays here they may not feel the same as in years past,” said Jeremy Sirio, education specialist for the Women's Shelter of South Texas. “The holidays may never feel the same to you and that is not to say they are lost or that they'll lose their meanings.”

The Tree of Angels was started in Austin by Verna Lee Carr, executive advisor of People Against Violent Crime, to recognize that the holiday season is a difficult time for victims and their families.

Attendees listened to stories of local victims such as Melanie Seijo and her story of domestic violence with the father of her children. Seijo spoke about the struggle and the fears she faced throughout the relationship. She explained why she stayed in the abusive relationship and how, with help, she is stronger now.

There was a lighting of candles, the lighting of the Christmas tree and the adornment of the Christmas tree with the angel ornaments as families remembered their loved ones.

The Tree of Angels is in memory and to support victims and survivors of a violent crime and for those who lost a loved one.

A proclamation by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that proclaimed Dec. 4 through the 13 as Tree of Angels Week in Texas was read by San Diego Mayor Sally Lichtenberger.