What the Candlelight Vigil was Like at National Police Week

May 17, 2019Marty Skovlund Jr.
Law enforcement officers salute as names of their fallen are read. Photo by Marty Skovlund, Jr./Coffee or Die.

Law enforcement officers salute as names of their fallen are read. Photo by Marty Skovlund, Jr./Coffee or Die.

The air was cool and the ground wet on the evening of Monday, May 19, as thousands of police officers from around the country gathered on the National Mall for a candlelight vigil. The mood was somber, and it seemed nearly every person in attendance had a friend or family member in mind as each candle was lit, one by one.

The candlelight vigil in remembrance of fallen officers happens every year during National Police Week in Washington, D.C. The names of 371 fallen law enforcement officers were read, state by state, this year — 158 which were killed in the line of duty in 2018 alone.

Their names will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, where they will reside among their fellow brothers and sisters who held the thin blue line until their last breath.

“Tonight we embrace the names of 21,910 fallen heroes and their families who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live in safer communities,” said Lori Sharpe Day, interim Chief Executive Officer of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. “And we honor the courage of these brave men and women as we formally dedicate their names on the Memorial walls.”

Many of those called up to read a section of names into the microphone had a friend, fellow officer, or family member who had been killed in the line of duty. One of the readers paused before reading a name. “And my dad,” they finished, after a few beats. The words landed heavy on everyone in attendance.

Law enforcement officers from across the country traveled to Washington, D.C. for National Police Week. Photo by Marty Skovlund, Jr./Coffee or Die.

A bell would toll every so often. I couldn’t tell if it was after every state or after each section, but the echo reverberated through every corner of the Mall.

Some of the nearly 30,000 officers in attendance were in full uniform, while many others were in civilian clothes. Almost all had a badge around their neck though, and many wore hoodies or jackets that featured some variety of the “thin blue line” flag design. The message was clear: they stood as one, as officers of the law — sworn to serve and protect at any cost.

Over 30,000 law enforcement officers and their families gathered for a candlelight vigil on May 13, 2019. Photo by Marty Skovlund, Jr./Coffee or Die.

Marty Skovlund Jr.
Marty Skovlund Jr.

Marty Skovlund Jr. was the executive editor of Coffee or Die. As a journalist, Marty has covered the Standing Rock protest in North Dakota, embedded with American special operation forces in Afghanistan, and broken stories about the first females to make it through infantry training and Ranger selection. He has also published two books, appeared as a co-host on History Channel’s JFK Declassified, and produced multiple award-winning independent films.

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