By Pat Warren

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)– A bittersweet holiday gathering happened Friday for hundreds of Maryland families. They come together each year in memory of loved ones killed by drunk drivers.

Dozens of families hang ornaments on a tree in the State House rotunda in memory of loved one lost in fatal accidents caused by drivers under the influence.

Maryland averages 156 traffic fatalities caused by drunk or drugged driving each year, and each year Maryland remembers.

“My brother Kevin Durham was killed by a drunk driver when he was 16, back when I was in the academy,” one man said. “It’s a never ending battle.”

The stories are full of loss and frustration. The driver who killed Margaret Horrock’s son was sentenced to just six months in jail.

“And after the six months he goes into a bar and takes a beer bottle and smashes it on the bar and stuck it in a woman’s face,” Horrock said.

Victims whose families were unable to attend Friday’s ceremony were represented by law enforcement officers, and the parents of Montgomery County officer Noah Leotta, who was hit and killed by a drunk driver at a sobriety checkpoint, were honored for their efforts in strengthening Maryland’s drunk driving law.

Gov. Larry Hogan’s message was for all the families who gathered.

“On behalf of all of the citizens of the state, I just want to say thank you for choosing to speak out about the heartbreak you have endured,” Gov. Hogan said. “Thank you for your courage and your bravery and your selfless compassion. Thank you for channeling your grief in order to help others.”

Many have been coming each year since the ceremony began 14 years ago.

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