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The rain began to fall softly as the honor guard made up of units from more than 25 departments across the state made its way into formation.
It started to fall harder as the high school choir sang an a cappella version of “The Star Spangled Banner” and drenched the members of the honor guard as they stood at attention.
Loved ones and fellow emergency personnel gathered at the Fallen Heroes Day ceremony Friday honoring nine police officers and emergency personnel who died in the line of duty.
The choir and other singers performed solemn numbers beneath the white tent, where the crowd listened to speakers talk about the dedication of emergency responders.
Several of those being remembered had Carroll County ties. Sgt. Richard Findley, of the Prince George’s County Police Department, lived in New Windsor. Tfc. Mickey Lippy, of the Maryland State Police, lived in Westminster. Lt. Michael Howe, of the Baltimore County Police Department, lived in Manchester.
Maryland State Police pilot Stephen Bunker, Waldorf volunteer fire company EMT Tonya Mallard, Baltimore County fire company paramedic and firefighter Brian Neville, Frederick City Police Department officer Richard Bremer, FBI special agent Samuel Hicks and Baltimore County Fire Department firefighter Thomas Rice were also remembered at the ceremony at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium.
Mickey Lippy’s sister Diana said having him remembered at the ceremony was an honor but also difficult. Things have settled down a bit after Lippy’s death in September, but Friday’s service brought back painful emotions, she said.
Seeing the outpouring of police and other emergency personnel reminded her of how loved and honored her brother was and what a brotherhood law enforcement is, Lippy said.
Bruce Lippy said he knows the ceremony was to memorialize his son, but it reminded him that Mickey is gone.
“As much of an honor as it is, it’s very hard to do,” he said.
Former Ravens kicker Matt Stover told the crowd that while professional athletes should be role models, they’re not heroes like police officers and fire fighters are.
Afterward, Stover said it was a privilege and an honor to speak at the ceremony.
Gov. Martin O’Malley, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and other officials presented the families of the fallen heroes with a bronze replica of the Fallen Heroes Memorial and a resolution from the General Assembly.
The sight of the honor guard standing resolutely in the rain Friday symbolized the dedication of police, fire and emergency personnel such as the ones being remembered, Brown said.
“It is because of those we honor today that we are able to say without reservation that we are a great state and great country,” Brown said.
O’Malley and Brown held umbrellas in the rain for children of the men and women being remembered as they laid a wreath at the memorial.
As the ceremony came to an end, bagpipes played “Amazing Grace,” a 21-gun salute sounded and taps was played by a Baltimore County Police Department detective.
A formation of helicopters from the Baltimore Police Department and Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Howard and Prince George’s County police departments flew over the tent. They were trailed by a state police helicopter, which dipped its nose in tribute as it passed over the memorial.
And as the crowd began to leave and workers began to stack the chairs inside the tent, the rain stopped and the sun began to shine.
Hey, my grandma was ahead of her time! Course back in her day, we just called it “being nosy.”
“We’ve got to have the help, folks. We’re growing so fast we cannot have an officer on every street all the time, and we need help.”
That was the thrust of the message from Casa Grande police Cmdr. Mike Keck during Thursday’s meeting to attempt to drum up interest in the Neighborhood Watch program or to reinvigorate ones already organized.