WASHINGTON - Thousands of law enforcement officers, their families, friends and the nation's new attorney general gathered Friday for a candlelight vigil to remember and pay respects to officers who died in the line of duty.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, whose brother is a 26-year veteran of the Houston Police Department, delivered the keynote speech at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. "More than 17,000 names appear on these walls," Gonzales said of the memorial, "a roll call of those who've made the ultimate sacrifice wearing the uniforms and badges of America's law enforcement community."
In 2004, 153 law enforcement died in the line of duty, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Their names, along with the others who have died, are listed on walls that ring the memorial.
"The families and loved ones of law enforcement officers know that each day brings unknown dangers," Gonzales said. "Your sacrifice is no less than the street cop's or sheriff's deputy you love and support."
Upon their arrival, families of fallen officers were met by the cadences of bagpipers and a contingent of saluting honor guards from around the country and from abroad, including Britain, Italy and Canada. Women were handed a red rose and escorted on the arm of officers to their place of honor before the main stage.
Officers from around the country, from the Texas Highway Patrol with their distinctive cowboy hats to Chicago police with their black and white checkered hat bands, talked with each other or paid quiet remembrance to comrades who died in the line of duty.
Daniel Rodriguez, the retired New York City Police detective who gained fame singing at Yankee baseball games after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, performed the national anthem.
At the end of the ceremony, the names of law enforcement officers who were added to the memorial's walls were read aloud. Gonzales took the first turn reading the list.