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2008 Candlelight Vigil

Remarks on Behalf of the Nation's Survivors

By Jean Hill, National President, Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), May 13, 2008

Thank you Craig.

Eight years ago tonight my family and I were sitting in this very same place off to my right. It had been six months since Barry had been murdered and we felt as though our world had ended. Our hearts were broken and we were so downtrodden and emotionally spent. I remember that night very well.

But tonight isn't about me and my family. It's about you and yours because not only are we here to honor your loved one for the sacrifice they made to this great country of ours but we're also here to honor you. Every day when your officer put his uniform and badge and gun on and walked out the door, you didn't realize it but you were making a sacrifice too. And every time you sat down with your officer at day's end or week's end and you began to discuss the activities that had gone on, you also didn't realize it, but you were building memories that will last you a lifetime and as you one day get to where you can start remembering back when, you'll find that those memories will bring lots of joy and they'll put a smile back on your face.

Knowing that my granddaughter, Shae, was going to sing this beautiful song about remembering, I got to thinking about all the memories that are associated with every name on this beautiful Memorial that surrounds us. Can you imagine? 18,274 names of brave men and women from across the nation — just think of the memories that are attached to this Memorial. And I wanted to know what some of those memories were and the only way I knew I could find those memories was to talk to the people who knew these officers.

I talked to Pat Hurst, the surviving mother of Texas Game Warden Justin Hurst. Pat told me that "Justin was so proud of his 4 month old son Kyle and could hardly wait to tote Kyle around with him outside. To do this Justin HAD to have a red Radio Flyer wagon with the wide mud tires. This had to be special ordered and the day it came in Justin had Kyle in the wagon pulling him all over the house- both inside and outside. You could see Justin's plans for spending time with Kyle out in the garden and as well as Kyle helping his daddy around the house. That's one of the last sweet memories that Pat has of her son, Justin, because that very same night, March 17, 2007, after the first day with his pride and joy, Kyle, in his brand new red wagon, Justin was shot and killed by a poacher."

I also talked to Patricia Devlin, surviving spouse of Officer Thomas Devlin. Patricia told me "some of my happiest memories of Tom revolve around his bike. He was, in fact truly poetry in motion, born on wheels. Vacation always included cycling. Our rides varied including the Mountains of New Hampshire and Arizona and the seacoasts of Rhode Island, and Massachusetts and the inner water ways of Florida. I can't tell you how many times my legs would be screaming for release and Tom would turn around with a big grin on his face and say, "Trish you're doing great, a lot of the guys at work wouldn't try this hill!" That was the ultimate compliment! That spirit and love of life carried Tom through his injuries and subsequent illness. He was a funny loving generous soul and his smile will forever be engraved in my heart. When I think of my husband that is what I see......him smiling with love at me. Boston College Police Department Officer Thomas Devlin, died on April 6, 2007 from injuries that he sustained in September 1988 when he was exposed to military-grade teargas that had been set off in the ventilation system of a college dormitory.

I also talked to Ryan Nicholson, surviving sibling of Smithburg MD Police Officer Christopher Nicholson. Ryan said, "When you asked me about my brother Christopher, I thought of a lot of special moments we had together, growing up. Christopher loved to be, hunting, and just having fun. He especially liked deer hunting and would get excited when deer season was getting close. I had a lot of good times with my Dad and Christopher while we were hunting.

I would have to say, though, that my most special time with my brother was this past deer rifle season.

This past Thanksgiving, Mom and Paul wanted all of us to spend Thanksgiving at the cabin. Christopher hunted with the rest of the crew early in the week, and Mom, Nanny and I went down Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. We all got to hunt on Thanksgiving Day and Mom and Nan helped get dinner ready at our friend's house.

It was all a special day and a special time, that I got to spend with Christopher. We renewed our brotherly feelings for each other, rode 4-wheelers together and got to spend quality time with our family. It was all a special, special time together.

And then Ryan concludes by saying, "If only I had known how special the day really was, I never would have let that Thanksgiving Day end." Officer Christopher Nicholson was shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance on December 19, 2007.

These are just a few of many memories of the 18,000+ names that we have on this Memorial.

Just think of the last day you had with your officer and I'm sure you'll say with Ryan, "If I had known how special that last day was, I would never have let it end."

Your heart is heavy with grief tonight and you don't know how you're going to get through the next few days, much less, the rest of your life without your loved one - remember, live and dwell on these memories that you have of your loved one. Remember that you are a survivor and that you are the "Living Memorial" that houses the sweet, sweet memories you have of your loved one. And even though it pains us to see the name of our loved one engraved on this Memorial, it also gives us great pride when we think of them and remember. We're proud of their commitment. We're proud of their sacrifice and we're extremely proud of you for sharing them with us these next few days.

Thank you.