DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Hanging Christmas ornaments is usually a joyous occasion. But on a Thursday night in Dallas, it was a reminder of precious things lost.

Hundreds of family members gathered for the 13th annual Dallas County Tree of Angels ceremony in North Oak Cliff. They decorated the tree with angels bearing the names and faces of loved ones lost to violence.

Mary Jean Pearle was the keynote speaker. “I know I’m not alone in my sadness,” Pearle told the crowd.

Pearle lost her daughters, Faith and Liberty in May of 2001 when her ex-husband, John Battaglia, took the girls to his loft in Deep Ellum and shot them.

“People ask me, how do you go on, and I say I do it for Faith and Liberty,” explained Pearle. “If they’re looking down here, I would like them to think that what he did to them did not work.”

Herminia Alvarez lost her 13-year-old daughter, Maricela, in a drive-by shooting. Alvarez says the common bond she shares with those who have also lost loved ones makes it easier to cope. “They know what I’m feeling and what I’m going through. They understand my pain,” Alvarez added.

From the innocent to the fallen police officers who serve and protect the innocent, the Tree of Angels is more than just a way to honor the dead. It’s also a way to remind the living that they’re not alone during what should be a season of joy.