Staff Photo: Josh Green Victims Witness program director Stan Hall, right, congratulates the 2011 Victims' Voice Award recipient Edward Rowell, a Criminal Justice Coordinating Council claims specialist who overcame a violent crime en route to helping other victims, many in Gwinnett.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Edward Rowell knows the huge, sudden pain of having loved ones ripped from his life by crime.
In 2002, on vacation in his beloved Florida, Rowell was driving a vehicle slammed by a drunk driver. He remembers hearing his wife holler "he's going to hit us," then a series of rolls, the second of which ejected his wife and brother-in-law, killing them.
A former prison corrections officer, Rowell has channeled his grief into productivity, now dealing with those on the opposite side of the violent-crime equation. His devotion as a claims specialist with Georgia's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, which provides monetary assistance to victims, earned him the 2011 Victims' Voice Award during a Thursday ceremony at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.
"I know the hurt (crime victims) have because I dealt with it every day," said an emotional Rowell. "I'm not only sympathetic with them, I'm empathetic with them."
Fifteen years running, the annual ceremony doubles as an honorarium for advocates who help shepherd victims through grief and a breakfast networking event for the dozens of prosecutors, law enforcement, judges, children advocates and other officials on hand.
Stan Hall, Gwinnett's Victim Witness Program director, said the decision to honor Rowell was reached via quick consensus by those who've dealt with him and have paired him with crime victims.
Rowell's known for dropping whatever he's doing at his downtown Atlanta office and driving to Gwinnett at the behest of the District Attorney's Office, Hall said.
"This is a man that we call more than we should call," Hall said.