Tens of thousands of people attended an emotional candlelight vigil Sunday evening in Washington DC to honor law enforcement officers who lost their lives in the line of duty in 2017.
During the vigil, the names of every slain law enforcement officer who died over the past year were announced. Marked by the tolling of a bell, seven names were read when Illinois was called, including Rockford Police Officer Jaimie Cox. Officer Cox died Nov. 5, 2017 during a traffic stop in the city.
"We must honor and support those who protect us. And it is fitting and right that we join together annually as a nation to remember those who have given their all for us," said U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was among a number of speakers to address the crowd.
Officer Cox’s friends, family and a delegation from the Rockford Police Department attended the vigil. They traveled from their hotel by charter bus to the National Mall, and were immediately greeted by an honor guard upon their arrival to the event. When asked what the ceremony meant to him, and what the past 6 months of community support has meant to the police department, Chief Dan O’Shea said it all goes back to Officer Cox and his ultimate sacrifice.
"We always say we’re ready for it, but you’re not," said O’Shea. "We train for it, we try and we never want it to ever happen. We might try to mitigate all of the risks as much as we can but at the end of the day anybody who says they will take this job knows that at some point it could happen to them; it could happen to their partner. We’d be foolish to think that we’ll never ever lose another office. Unfortunately, it’s part of the job."
Organizers of the event estimate 20,000 people attended it. Events will continue throughout the week, including a gala Monday evening and a memorial ceremony Tuesday morning from the lawn of the U.S. Capitol building. National Police Week officially started when hundreds of bicyclists arrived Saturday at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. Those law enforcement officers traveled hundreds of miles from across the country. It was announced at the vigil Sunday evening that the Police Unity Tour raised $2.5 million for a museum dedicated to police.
In the fall, the National Police Officers Museum will finally open.