On a day unlike any other in Pierce County, thousands of citizens joined law enforcement officers from throughout North America to pay tribute Tuesday to four Lakewood police officers gunned down at a Parkland coffee shop last month.
They gathered on street corners, in college auditoriums and at the Tacoma Dome to mourn the losses of Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Tina Griswold, Greg Richards and Ronald Owens, but they also acknowledged even celebrated the bond between the civilian community and those who swear to serve and protect it.
"Thank God we live in a place where people protect us and give their lives for us," said Steilacoom resident Doris Tchobanoff, 60, who stood with her 2-year-old grandson, Seth, outside Lakewood police headquarters to watch a miles-long procession of emergency vehicles escort the fallen officers' bodies to the Tacoma Dome for an emotion- and tradition-laden memorial service.
Speaking later at the memorial, Lakewood police chief Bret Farrar said the show of support from the community in the aftermath of the shooting left him awed.
"I stand before you today a very humbled individual," Farrar said. "I wish (Renninger, Griswold, Richards and Owens) could see the outpouring of love we have seen the past week."
The memorial which began with the beating of a single drum and ended about 5 p.m. with the retiring of the colors commemorated the lives of the four officers through song, prayer, stories and images of their lives broadcast on huge screens.
"Today's ceremony is about honoring those lives and about honoring those sacrifices," Lakewood Mayor Doug Richardson said. "To an officer, they would tell you, ' On Nov. 29, I was doing my duty.' There is no higher calling than to do one's duty, and they served well."
Tuesday's events began with a procession of emergency vehicles through Lakewood and Tacoma.
It left a staging area at McChord Air Force base about 10 a.m. and snaked along a route that took it past Lakewood police headquarters, down South Tacoma Way and on to the Dome, where hundreds of citizens and law enforcement officers in dress uniforms awaited.
It took nearly four hours for the 2,100 cars to make the trip. More than 300 agencies had at least one vehicle in the procession. Some traveled from as far away as the East Coast to participate, including seven officers from Nassau County on New York's Long Island.
"We had to show our support, not just for the department but for the families," Nassau County officer Edward Jacobsen said. "Everything those officers were doing, we've all done and continue to do. A lot of us work nights. We drink coffee just to stay awake. Now you have to keep any eye open all the time. Both eyes really.''
Constable Chad Gravelle from Boston Bar, British Columbia, was among the more than 700 members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other police officers from north of the border to attend.
Dressed in their familiar red dress uniforms, the Mounties came to show respect and brotherhood with the Lakewood officers, Gravelle said. The Mounties lost four members in a shooting in Alberta not long ago, and Gravelle said it reminds all officers that they can't take anything for granted.
"I can't put it into words," he said. "It could have been any of us."
Thousands of well-wishers lined the route, waving signs and American flags. Some saluted each and every passing police car. Others cried or shouted encouragement.
Cindy Duncan, 43, and Joyce Michelsen, 59, set up chairs along Lakewood Drive Southwest and hoisted signs that read, "God Bless You" and "Thank You."
Duncan and Michelsen said it was humbling to see so many cars from different police agencies join in the event. It was a powerful show of support among brothers and sisters in law enforcement, Duncan said.
"When it started, we both started to cry," she said. "It's just a wonderful thing to see, the way they've all come together."
Both said it was sad that the show of respect and appreciation from the community resulted from tragedy.
"It feels like we're a part of history, but it's a sad history," Duncan said.
Not far away, Air Force Tech Sgts. Victoria Padron, 45 of Lakewood, and Denise Haigh-Boone, 36 of Spanaway, together held a sign with a red, white and blue ribbon that read, "United We Stand."
"We just wanted to show our respect," Padron said.
Hundreds more gathered near the intersection of South 56th Street and South Tacoma Way, where a Tacoma Fire Department ladder truck extended its ladder above the intersection, an American flag flying from the top.
Jonnie and Martin Klukas came up from Renton to watch the procession. Their 25-year-old son, Christopher, is a Washington state trooper who particpated in the procession.
"I had to be here," Jonnie Klukas said. "Our son told us that a fellow officer told him today would be a difficult day, but his heart would fill with pride to see all the support."
Three staff members from Nelson Elementary School in Graham stood nearby, including teacher Michelle Asher. The tragedy hit close to home at Nelson. The son of slain Lakewood Police Officer Greg Richards a cousin attended the school, Asher said.
"This morning we held a moment of silence," she said.
Julie Sullenszino, a social worker at Nelson, said the display of solidarity on the sidewalks of Tacoma and Lakewood was inspiring.
"If we cannot come together for this when will we ever come together," Sullenszino said.
People who wanted to attend the memorial but couldn't get to the Tacoma Dome gathered at sites where the service was broadcast on large screens or televisions.
Chrissy Core and her husband, Jordan Core, were among the dozens of students, residents and law-enforcement officers who watched the service at Olson Auditorium at Pacific Lutheran Univeristy.
Chrissy Core said she visited the Forza Coffee Co. shop where the four Lakewood officers were killed last week. A makeshift memorial outside the shop comprised of balloons, flowers, stuffed animals, cards and handwritten notes resonated with her.
"It moved me deeply just to see all the support," said Core, a 24-year-old PLU student.
The Cores live in Shelton but said the deaths affected people far outside Lakewood.
"This affects us all," said Jordan Core, a 25-year-old University of Washington-Tacoma student. "Its sad here, and for good reason. But Id rather show my support than sit on the sidelines."
The hearses carrying the bodies of Renninger, Griswold, Richards and Owens arrived at the Dome just after noon. They were led to cavernous building by a bagpipe band from the Spokane Valley Fire Department.
Next came an honor guard from the Seattle Police Horse Patrol. Four officers on horseback were preceded by a single riderless horse, symbolic of the fallen officers.
An honor guard of police officers and firefighters more than 70 strong stood nearby, their agency's guidon clasped in their hands.
Before arriving at the Dome, the patrol cars that belonged to the fallen officers drove past Lakewood police headquarters and beneath a giant American flag that swayed softly in the wind.
It would be the final time the fallen officers would report to the station.