On a sunny day a cool breeze flew through, one that reminded us all of our location, the current moment and what the day will later become and symbolize. I spent Monday, May 13 at the National Law Enforcement Memorial site in Washington, D.C. along with the thousands of people on the second day of Police Week 2013.
Etched in stone are the names of thousands of fallen law enforcement officers from throughout the country. More names, each with their own heart-breaking story, are added each year - some recent and some old. The National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund painstakingly researches each case, recognizing as many end of watches (a fitting term solemnly referred as E.O.W.) as possible. Families, friends, and sworn brothers and sisters collected together to honor the lives of the nation's law enforcement, share their stories, remember and support one another.
Craig Floyd, the Memorial Fund Chairman and CEO lent one such nearly-forgotten story in his welcoming remarks of how Customs Inspector John Stout earned his name into the stone walls. Nearly 200 years ago, according to the story, Stout was killed on duty during the arrest attempt of a pirate, Jean Lafitte. While hundreds other names illustrate the dedication and commitment it takes to swear and uphold the law, this 200 year-old tale finally received the recognition it deserves.
To me, even though his actions are more than a century ago, his addition to the Memorial symbolizes that no officer's actions will ever be misplaced, forgotten or sacrifices taken lightly. Floyd illustrated this during the ceremony explaining that the Memorial began with a 24-hour reading of over 12,500 names. And added that "Every year since, we've given that same honor to every name that has been added to this national treasure."
Newly carved this year were names of 321 officers, 120 from 2012 alone, bringing the total to a countless 19,981.
I began my Monday viewing the Memorial from afar - an attempt to capture its entirety at once - a difficult effort. To begin to comprehend its meaning you must chose to walk into the field just as the officer's names written before you had. You must listen to the memories, feel the stone and the heart-felt messages left by families and friends.
In the hours prior to the Vigil I found the central area populated of empty chairs, section after section, row after row. I soon realized that soon each one will hold a father, mother, wife, husband, son, daughter, brother and/or sister. But more importantly that each of these chairs will hold a love, everlasting.
You must walk among this crowd, knowing the tear in your eye isn't only of sorrow but of steadfast pride.
Take care and enjoy this brief glimpse of my time before and during the humbling Candlelight Vigil. It may be the end of their watch, but their memories will - and always - continue.
Thank you and stay safe.