WASHINGTON – Hundreds of family members and spectators waited in unseasonable heat Wednesday to greet friends and relatives who rode bicycles from New York to honor police officers killed in the line of duty.
They waited at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial where a ceremony Thursday night will commemorate 362 law enforcement officers who died in the last year.
After a wait of more than two hours for some,the 700 riders of the National Police Unity Tour arrived in Washington at 2:30 p.m. after a 300-mile trip that began Monday.
For many police officers,this event is much more than a bicycle trip.
“This trip shows that no matter what department you come from,what area you specialize in,there is support no matter what. We are unified,” said Officer Maria Pomales of the Orlando,Fla.,Police Department.
Pomales has traveled to the annual event six times with others from her department.
“Unfortunately,we've lost members of our department over the years,so we try to come and show our support,” Pomales said.
Donna Carney,41 of Fairfax,Va.,came to the memorial to reunite with her husband,Officer John Carney. A member of the Fairfax County Police Department in Reston,he has participated in the trip for the past three years.
“We are very proud of him and everything he does,” said Donna Carney.
While some were at the memorial to greet bike riders,others were there to make rubbings of a son or husband's name among the thousands of others on the memorial. Made up of low,curved walls,the memorial includes names of officers killed on duty since 1792. Colorful wreaths,many with messages or photographs,had been placed along the walls.
The police unity tour is one of the many events during National Police Week,which runs until Saturday,when there will be a memorial service at the Capitol and a wreath-laying service at the memorial. The week honors the contributions and sacrifices of America's law enforcement officers. The memorial was dedicated in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush.
Attorney Gen. John Ashcroft will speak at a candlelight vigil Thursday. The ceremony includes a reading of the 362 names of that have been carved into the memorial since last year.