The light in Judiciary Square

If you ever plan to attend Police Week, held annually in Washington, D.C., prepare to be changed. For all of its similarities to the city’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial is not the same. The difference is, names are continually added to this memorial, day after day, year after year.

Some visitors pay homage to brothers and sisters, friends, and family members of decades past. Some are mourning mothers and fathers who were in their life just last year. It’s a living tribute. It’s evident, too, that Police Week is much more than your average D.C. memorial when you witness thousands of candles light up Judiciary Square like a second sky.

But for all its sadness, there’s celebration in the air, too. This is evident when you watch a thick crowd of sign and camera-wielding folks cheer on bike and motorcycle Unity Tour riders as they arrive in the square — one after the next — after a pilgrimage spanning many days. Honor guard and pipe band competitions amplify an already lively background among the uniform rows of shady green trees. In fact, police men and women from around the globe show up to this event, dressed to the nines, from all walks of policing life.

We’ve put together a photo essay to share part of the 2011 Police Week experience with you. It’s something you have to see to believe.