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GARDEN OF ANGELS

The Garden of Angels in Mosier Valley, a tiny, mostly black community on the north edge of Arlington, Texas

At first glance, the Garden of Angels looks like just another cemetery. Oh, but it's not. The Garden and the story behind are both touching and... chilling.... - William Holmes
Mosier Valley Garden of Angels Cross memorials, Arlington Texas
Photo courtesy William Holmes, June 2005
June 26, 2005 Sunday

This evening I drove out Mosier Valley Rd, where it intersects with Trinity Boulevard, to see a roadside memorial called The Garden of Angels. Mosier Valley is a cluster of weatherworn houses, trailer homes and miscellaneous small businesses at the end of Mosier Valley Road. The original population in the late 1800s was freed blacks, and today is still mostly black, some white, all working class to poor. No fancy houses here. Mosier Valley Road itself is a narrow, bumpy, two-lane stretch of asphalt that runs alongside railroad tracks. On one side the road passes along fields cluttered with weeds and junk. The other side of the road, beyond the tracks, is bordered by a huge pit, hundreds of yards wide, lined with mountains of dark earth and large rocks which give the place a forbidding look. A sign reads EARTH MOVERS INC. On down a ways, on a corner by a house, a handwritten sign offers goats for sale.

At the end of Mosier Valley Road, where it meets Trinity Blvd, is a striking array of gleaming white crosses that seems out of place in this drab and dirty area. This is the Garden of Angels.
Crosses in Garden of Angels Mosier Valley Arlington Texas
Photo courtesy William Holmes, June 2005
Here and there, all over Texas, you see roadside crosses memorializing someone killed in an accident. What makes the Garden of Angels different is that it memorializes people who have been murdered. It began with Amy Robinson. On February 15, 1998, she was 19, with the mental ability of a 14 yr old, riding to work on her bicycle, when she was kidnapped and killed by co-workers. Her body was dumped on the other side of Trinity Blvd, near a tower. Her grandmother, Carolyn Barker, started the garden with a cross for Amy. Others added crosses for local people and some not so local, all of them murdered, until now one corner of the intersection is full of crosses, plus a few bench memorials. A metal fence encloses the crosses, a brick walkway, and a small pond with goldfish. The crosses are arranged in uneven rows. Some of the crosses are illustrated with pictures and at the foot of many of the crosses lie small mementos of the person's life.
Cross and Pond, Garden of Angels Mosier Valley Arlington Texas
Photo courtesy William Holmes, June 2005
So many of these murder victims were young, 20 yrs old or younger. Here is a chilling reminder, five crosses, clustered together on the front row, each with a youngster's picture, their first names - Noah, John, Mary, Luke, Paul - and their last name: Yates. On a bench on the corner, outside the fence, is another familiar name: Polly Klaas. I counted 54 crosses, including one for an unborn child.
Garden of Angels Mosier Valley Arlington Texas
Photo courtesy William Holmes, June 2005
On the other side of Mosier Valley Road are 32 more crosses, arranged in two rows. And a gazebo in memory of a young fellow named Christopher. Altogether, almost 90 victims of murder-the malicious killing of one human by another. I don't know of any other such memorial in Texas. Absolutely, it's a graphic sign of how violent humans can be, but ironically, the fact that the memorial stands out so vividly and strangely, is an implied reminder of how safe most of us actually are. When such memorials are no longer striking and strange or when we stop noticing at all, then we truly are in trouble.

Article and photos copyright William Holmes
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