Last Saturday, in one singularly tragic event, 4 Oakland Police Officers were shot and killed by a single suspect - a parolee with a violent past, for whom an arrest warrant had just been issued.
The details can be found on any news source, local or national. I want to talk about what happened this afternoon.
Poice officers from around the country, political leaders and thousands of "regular" people - just you 'n me, for instance - crowded the Oracle Arena in Oakland for one last chance to honor the four. The crowd grew so large the outdoor Oakland Coliseum had to be used for overflow. The City of Oakland's citizens, along with the entire Oakland Police Department, came to say goodbye to the four. I heard estimates as high as 30,000 people in attendance.
The memorial lasted more than three hours. I listened on the radio and watched from my desk at work, tearing up frequently as their lives were celebrated, and the senselessness of their deaths deeply mourned. Ten children are now without fathers; wives, parents, brothers and sisters without these brave family members. What happened next was simply amazing....
Motorcades, one for each fallen hero, left the Coliseum onto Interstate 880 in Oakland. The Highway Patrol stopped traffic, and I watched on TV as people saluted the passing column of police and family members' vehicles.
I was sobered by this outpouring of support for our police officers, having been an OPD reserve in the mid - to - late '70's. I left the office early, not being able to get much accomplished. As I made it to I 580 east to head home, however, the Tri Valley appeared to have come alive with emotion unseen since 9/11/01. At each overpass, local fire departments had placed two engines and a company of firefighters saluting as each squad of motor officers made the sad drive home to the Central Valley, or groups of cars from Sacramento, Fresno, Glendale...and many more drove past in advance of one of the motorcades, which was headed east toward an officer's home in Tracy. People pulled off the freeway onto the shoulder, waiting with sober expressions, looking on mournfully.
At Livermore, two ladder trucks hoisted a huge American flag, and more than 1,000 citizens gathered to salute one of the fallen officers on a single overpass. CHP had cleared the freeway, halting traffic from entering the roadway. As I rolled to this overpass for a final look, with a tear in my eye and grief stricken faces all around me, I saluted with everyone else as the motorcade slowly made its way east. 30 miles from Oakland...this tragedy shook the entire area, it seems.
Thank you to the Livermore - Pleasanton Fire Department, the Alameda County Fire Department and the other public servants who participated in this measure of healing. We, not just Oakland residents, were all gravely wounded with the loss of four fine young officers..."just doing their job."
A salute to you,
Officer John Hege
Sgt. Dan Sakai
Sgt. Ervin Romans
Sgt. Mark Dunakin, whose procession we watched from a silent freeway overpass this afternoon.
Heaven is bound to be a lot safer now.....