Just a few feet away from me were dozens of family members of Philadelphia police officers killed in the line of duty. What mixed emotions they must have felt as a beautiful multi-media memorial to their brave relatives was unveiled Thursday night at the Comcast Center.
The memorial includes a 42-inch, high-definition television and a touch screen panel that reveals personal and professional information about each of the 266 fallen officers in the department’s history. Comcast partnered with the Police Department to develop the memorial, which includes access to a web site with videos and additional information.
As Comcast Executive VP David L. Cohen told the audience, "Behind the badge, each of these fallen heroes has a personal story. These were men and women who coached and mentored kids in their communities, volunteered where they were needed, and relaxed at the Jersey Shore and the Poconos. These were moms and dads, aunts and uncles, friends and neighbors. This new memorial will tell their stories in a way that is appropriate to the service they gave to this city."
These heroes paid the ultimate sacrifice to keep their beloved city safe, as noted by David, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, Mayor Michael Nutter and Fraternal Order of Police executive Bob Ballantine. Appropriately, the memorial is called "Their Sacrifice, Our History," reflecting not only the fallen officers, but the legacy of a department with roots dating to 1663. It is the oldest municipal police agency in the country.
The memorial resulted from conversations among the Mayor, Commissioner, David and FOP President John McNesby. All agreed that the existing memorial at Police Headquarters needed to be upgraded and modernized. A team of employees from Comcast brought their technical expertise to the project.
Commissioner Ramsey thanked Comcast and all of the partners involved with the memorial’s creation. He called it "the end result of a vision. We all felt strongly we needed to take the time to do this right. But I had no idea Comcast would do something as extraordinary as this."
The memorial will become part of a permanent display at Police Headquarters.
After the unveiling ceremony, family members and police officers in attendance used the touch-screen technology to see biographical information and images of their relatives and former colleagues. Some wiped away tears. Others laughed as they recalled a funny story or warm memory.
Mayor Nutter summed up the evening beautifully, as he spoke directly to the families.
"You’re part of a larger family – not just the Philadelphia Police Department – but of the entire city of Philadelphia. We love you. We respect you. We support you. And we will never forget you."