The candlelight vigil that crowns National Police Week with a tribute to fallen officers took on a more somber tone this year, as law enforcement supporters honored a growing list of names.
This year, the names of 316 officers were engraved on the 304-foot memorial walls at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial here in Washington, D.C. Of that number, 152 were from 2010. A year ago, 116 officers' names from 2009 were engraved, marking a 25 percent increase.
"The safety of our communities and the freedoms we enjoy as a nation have always come at a price," said Craig Floyd, chairman and chief executive of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF). "In 2010, the price paid by our heroic and dedicated law enforcement officers was especially high, and the loss felt by their loved ones and colleagues was heavy."
While the vigil offers a potent reminder of the hazards of police work, it also strives to display the courage and commitment of officers, who often travel from around the country to show their support. As Floyd is fond of saying, "It is not how these officers died that made them heroes. It is how they lived."
Several dignitaries spoke at the vigil, including Attorney General Eric Holder, who led the reading of the names of the fallen. "We are reminded that our liberty and security often come at a terrible price," Holder said.
In a brief speech, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano praised officers who she said often put "their dedication to duty above their own personal safety."
The vigil's simpler, heartfelt moments resonated powerfully and included survivor stories from Linda Moon-Gregory, national president of the Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.). Floyd also told the story of Officer Jeremy Hubbard, the Cowden (Ill.) Police officer killed while pursuing a suspected gasoline thief. Floyd showed a picture of the officer's two sons forming a heart with their hands over a framed picture of their father.
The vigil drew up to 20,000 attendees on an evening that threatened yet didn't bring thundershowers in the D.C. area.
By Paul Clinton