Tuesday, May 14, 2013
There were tears, hugs and poignant memories. Families, friends and the proverbial brothers and sisters in blue were comforted by messages and acts meant to create a sense of renewal, purpose and hope for eternal remembrance.
More than 150 people – mostly law enforcement officers and families of fallen officers – gathered Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the Park Circle Community Center in North Charleston for the annual “Lowcountry Fraternal Order of Police Law Enforcement Memorial.”
They met to honor those who died in the line of duty. The Tri-County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 3 hosted.
The Rev. Rob Dewey of Coastal Crisis Police Chaplaincy led the opening prayer and moment of silence followed by the presentation of colors by an honor guard made up of multiple agencies including the Summerville Police Department.
Officers from Dorchester, Berkeley, Charleston, and Colleton counties and those from respective municipalities and agencies attended.
S.C. Highway Patrol Sgt. Bob Beres led the pledge of allegiance and introduced keynote speaker North Charleston Police Department Chief Eddie Driggers.
Driggers said Saturday night he was patrolling and praying for guidance so he could impart words to the families at the memorial.
“Someone on the radio answered,” Driggers said. He said he heard a song called “I Refuse,” recorded by Josh Wilson.
Driggers said the chorus lyrics are, “I refuse to live like I don't care.”
“Those words kept resonating through my mind,” Driggers said. “The men and women we are honoring here today gave their all . . . They cared about the people they served. They gave their lives for us because they cared so deeply for us.
“We should do everything in our power to carry their legacy on . . . They are teachers, people we should aspire to be.
“I hope and pray I never have to go to another funeral. I've been to too many for police. I've been to too many gravesides, too many funerals and seen too many grieving families.”
Driggers said 900,000 law enforcement officers served in the United States last year. Of those, 120 were killed in the line of duty.
Their lives were not lost but renewed, Driggers said, adding that he hopes those who live here have a renewed spirit for those honored in the memorial.
“We as a family stand behind you and care for you and will continue to care for you.”
The names and agencies of all 57 officers who died in the line of duty in the tri-county were then called as officers in parade uniform from various local agencies slowly made their way from the back of the room to place a red rose in a vase at the base of the stage for each of their departed fraternal colleagues.
Officers escorted surviving family members outside where Summerville Police Department's Honor Guard gave a 21-gun salute followed by “Taps” from the Dorchester County Sheriff's Office Honor Guard.
SPD Lt. Doug Wright is a survivor who has lost a family member in the line of duty. Wright also oversees the SPD Honor Guard
“A lot of people don't realize the danger inherent in this job,” Wright said. “Summerville has a very good police department. We put a lot of effort into the Honor Guard. We go to any law enforcement funeral in South Carolina to pay our respects.”
Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon sat in the front row during the memorial. He has dealt with numerous incidents in which officers were killed on duty, including the deaths of members of the Summerville Police Department, Berkeley County Sheriff's Office, Moncks Corner Police Department and his own agency.
He said he has responded to such incidents in Summerville, Berkeley County and Moncks Corner to offer assistance.
“We are trained to deal with all sorts of situations,” Cannon said. “When it involves one of our own it is a much greater challenge. Being there to provide moral support and advice when asked is real important . . . It takes a whole law enforcement community and the community.
“Police officers are people like anybody else with the same dreams, desires, strong points, weak points.”
Cannon said anyone in uniform – police, military, firefighters, EMTs – step forward to serve and the public often takes for granted the order police provide to allow everyone to go about their daily lives.
“Police officers in particular need to recognize what they do does not go unnoticed. Those killed in the line of duty are not forgotten. I've lost several officers over the course of my career. It's a very poignant moment to be with the families of those officers.
“One had a son who was 2 years old at the time. Now he has a child of his own. It brings back memories.”