As family members of fallen police officers made their way down a long path toward a permanent memorial at Tropical Park, hundreds stood in silence Thursday.
The procession — including mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives and children — was part of the 35th annual Miami-Dade Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Ceremony.
The solemn ceremony brought together law enforcement officers from departments across the county, family and other community members to honor those who died in the line of duty.
“Law enforcement is a calling, a life of sacrifice,” said Miami Shores Police Chief Kevin Lystad, who also serves as the president of the Miami-Dade County Chiefs of Police. “Today, we honor and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Etched into the memorial’s granite wall are 139 names. This year, another was added: U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer Dwight Blackman Jr., who died at 35 in an August 2015 motorcycle crash.
“We mourn the loss of Dwight together,” said Dylan DeFrancisci, port director for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
DeFrancisci presented Blackman’s wife, Donnelle, a citation for her husband’s good work at the port.
The ceremony also included many traditions: a pinning ceremony, wreath presentation and a fly over.
A riderless horse also made its annual appearance.
“The riderless horse honors the warrior who will never ride again,” Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez said.
After reading the names of the 139 men and women who died in Miami-Dade County in the line of duty, the red-and-blue lights from dozens of police motorcycles and cars lit up the night sky.
Helicopters flew above, drowning out the sound of “One Sweet Day” playing on the speakers. The solemn occasion brought tears to the eyes of many at the ceremony.