Gathering to Grieve

I was there very early on Saturday and saw the situation unfold in Stanton Heights … and shared what I knew with the viewers in Pittsburgh and beyond. Later than night, I began to think about what took place – the incredible loss of life. As the week continued, I shared with you the developing details during our evening brodcasts.

However, it was not until Wednesday afternoon in front of the City-County building that the proceedings began to get to me emotionally.

It’s true when you present stories each night on death and destruction, murders and killings, that they can have less impact because of their sheer numbers and the great anonymity of the victims. However, this tragedy became real for me standing next to Janelle Hall as we broadcast the arrival of the hearses for today’s viewing.

Three silver hearses, each containing a casket. Inside each casket, a man sworn to protect us. Officers Eric Kelly, Stepehn Mayhle and Paul Sciullo II arrived in those caskets. Behind them, literally thousands of police officers from around the region and around the country. The scene was dramatic in its presentation, amazing in its precision and overwhelming in its symbolism.

officers

The caskets of Officers Kelly, Mayhle and Scuillo carried into the City-County building on Wednesday ( Courtesy: Tribune-Review )

When the bagpipes began to play and the honor guard removed the caskets to escort them through the portico of the City-County building, the impact of the events on myself moved to another level. You could feel the anguish of the family, the pain and anger of the officers and the shock of this moment having to take place. If you could not feel it, you just weren’t human.

Along with the officers and the families, there were ordinary citizens stations across the street. Some watching, some taking pictures with their cell phones but most just observing an event unprecedented in this city’s history. They were much like me: they did not know these men but they could not turn away or ignore this moment or these men.

And this is just the beginning. The mourning will continue overnight with public viewing and tomorrow when a procession of police like we have never seen escort the hearses to the Petersen Events Center for tomorrow’s memorial service. It’s a difficult two days for the city, but we have dealt with grief before. Remember, it was a little more than two years ago we said an “all-too-soon” farewell to Mayor Bob O’Connor.

I often wonder what is it about the deaths of police and fire fighters that captures our attention and brings a city like this closer together. The answer is the camaraderie of those on the respective forces. Their love for each other and their shared sense of duty in the face of danger.

After I leave the office tonight following the late news, I plan to head down to the City-County building to pay my respects. I did not know these men but now I feel the grief of the city because today it finally hit home. I thought it had, but today’s events make it more real, more tangible.

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