The setting was Bee County’s first prison unit, the William G. McConnell Unit. Only yards away from where the TDCJ employees gathered that Friday morning, one of their comrades, Daniel Nagle, had been found on Dec. 17, 1999, stabbed to death.
Nagle’s name was one of those read during a roll call as the names of all TDCJ officers and staff members who had died in the department’s history were read.
Some of those in the room remembered Nagle and Rhonda Osborne, a correctional clerk whose body was found on Oct. 21, 2004, in the Connally Unit in Karnes County.
It was during the reading of the names that the reality of the dangers of the job struck those in the room.
Nearby, as the names were read, stood a round table, covered with a white cloth and holding a sword, a single red rose, a vase, yellow ribbon, a slice of lemon, a pinch of salt, a Holy Bible, an inverted glass and an empty chair.
The program explained that the table was round to show the everlasting concern for missing loved ones. The tablecloth was white to convey the purity of those who answered the call of duty.
The sword was a symbol of honor, the red rose stood for the life of each missing person, the vase and yellow ribbon were symbols of determination to remember, the lemon slice was to remind those at the ceremony of the bitter taste of those killed or crippled while protecting society, the salt was a symbol of the tears officers had shed for their comrades, the Bible represented strength, the inverted glass was in memory of the inability of those who have gone to share in the day’s toast, and the empty chair was to remind all that their loves ones were missing.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.