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ROADSIDE SHRINES // PAINFUL MEMORIES

As a way to deal with her grief, Tina Bristol Estes visits the spot on Lake Lindsey Road where her brother and a fellow teacher were gunned down in January.

On a grassy patch of the road, the Hernando High School students of Mike Bristol and Mike Imhoff erected two crosses, adorned with white, yellow and red flowers, to remember the slain teachers who touched their lives.

"It's very moving," Estes said. "I think it's wonderful that they did it. I went out there to see them when I heard about it. I was very moved.

"It was very beautiful. It wasn't just two crosses slapped together. You could tell it took time to make them. You have to go out there to see it to appreciate it."

Roads across Hernando are dotted with such memorials, crosses and flowers lovingly placed at the scenes of tragic deaths. Many memorials stem from deaths that occurred from injustices, like the teachers' slayings or a killing by a drunken driver. Others are reminders to the community that a life was lost.

But not everyone is consoled at the sight of these roadside shrines.

Families who have lost a loved one say they do not need such painful reminders. Even more painful is a cross used to remember a person who was not of the Christian faith.

"I don't object personally to seeing the cross, but I assume that the person who died was a Christian and their families are the ones that put them up," said Marlene Shaw, president of Temple Beth David in Spring Hill. "I certainly would feel very offended if I saw a cross" on the site where a Jewish person died.

"At first glance, you think it's a nice thing to do," said Lucille Chrisafulle, president of the Hernando County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. "They certainly are touching and grab people's attention.

"But is it the right thing to do? Not everyone is a Christian. People are killed and murdered indiscriminately. Somewhere along the line, everyone is touched. It's best to keep these things non-denominational."

Chrisafulle _ who founded the local chapter 10 years ago after her 16-year-old son, David, was killed by a drunken driver on U.S. 19 _ said her group has looked into other ways to remember their loved ones.

Chrisafulle said the chapter has dedicated a living memorial to victims by planting trees in the courtyard at the Hernando County Government Center. Other families asked that flowers be donated elsewhere instead of placed on the side of the road. And some Jewish families have requested that the Star of David be used as a marker to remember their loved ones.

The Rev. Greg Champagne, senior pastor at the First Baptist Church of Brooksville, believes that friends who put up the crosses have the best intentions at heart.

"It certainly is not for the person who died," Champagne said. "It is done for the person doing it. It's because the people need to remember. They did it to honor and remember."

Added the Rev. Robin Murray, pastor of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Spring Hill: "I think we can't be morbid and dwell on death, but we don't want to forget about the ones we love."

Murray offers a solution to avoid adding to anyone's grief. He suggests that anyone who wants to erect a cross as a memorial ask the victim's family for permission.

"It's just a matter of respect," he said.

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