NEWPORT—Finding hope and peace were the themes of the annual Victim’s Rights Ceremony held on the Cocke County Courthouse lawn on Wednesday morning.
The annual event is hosted by District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn and his office staff, where the victims of violent crimes family are recognized and their loved ones honored.
“I am amazed and so thankful that this group is gathered here today to remember lost loved ones,” Dunn told the near 100 people gathered on the lawn. “There are all sorts of people, so many folks, that are taking their time to come support you.”
The ceremony, which takes part on National Victims Rights Week, has been ongoing since Dunn was first elected to the post back in 2006. A number of different agencies and organization across the 4th Judicial District, were represented at Wednesday’s event.
Victim Witness Coordinator Kim Hudson, who has worked in General Dunn’s office since 2006, said that the ceremony was one of the first things that was implemented when he took over for the retiring Al Schmutzer.
“General Dunn has been passionate about victims,” Hudson told the crowd.
Dr. Rich Lloyd, pastor of Newport’s First Baptist Church, was Wednesday’s keynote speaker.
“I am acquainted with death, I am acquainted with grief, however, I want to be clear for those of you we come to stand with, I don’t know what it’s like for you,” Lloyd said. “I don’t know what is is like to wake up one ordinary day and have unimaginable tragedy take place.”
He noted that there was no clear roadmap of how to deal with the grief many of the families at Wednesday’s ceremony knew.
“I don’t come with all the answers, there are no clear cut answers, there is no roadmap to work your way out of this grief,” Lloyd said. “I simply want to be the guy who would call you up in the middle of the day and ask how you are and that I’m thinking of you.”
Lloyd spoke of Ezekiel 34 in his address, detailing how Jesus was like a shepherd looking for lost sheep.
“I pray you will find hope. I pray you will find a new hope that comes in simply getting up and being thankful for a beautiful day,” Lloyd said.
Also addressing the audience on Wednesday were three representing the victims of violent crime.
Katrina Knight, whose daughter Kalenda died in May 2010, spoke of how to learn to live again.
“When you lose a child, there’s no words to explain how hard daily life is,” Knight said. “I try to keep a smile on my face and encourage everyone I can without showing my pain.”
Lisa Maxwell, whose daughter Megan was kidnapped and murdered in 2009, spoke of how she has worked through the grief of the ordeal that gripped much of the Cocke County community a decade ago.
“I know that Megan will never be forgotten,” Maxwell said. “Even for people who didn’t know Megan prayed for me, it’s unreal how this community helped.
“Ten years later, it’s still a struggle,” she said. “We are here to support each other because we know the feelings we are dealing with. Putting it into words is the hard part.”
Jenn Metz was hit by a drunk driver nearly four years ago and said even though she survived the incident, she has worked to find a purpose for her living through it. Even though it took awhile, Metz said that her purpose is to be there for the families gathered on Wednesday.
“I have a purpose and it’s to fight for you all,” Metz said.