Saying goodbye to Officer Pawlowski

February 20, 2009 8:18:11 PM PST
The city of Philadelphia said goodbye to the sixth police officer killed in the last 16 months.A horse-drawn hearse carrying the body of Officer John Pawlowski made its way to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul on Friday morning.

It was followed by a riderless horse.

Then, members of the force carried the casket into the cathedral.

A second viewing was held there this morning.

The 25-year-old Officer Pawlowski was shot and killed in the line of duty on Friday, February 13th.

He leaves behind a wife, Kim, who is five months pregnant with their first child. The couple met in fifth grade and shared their first kiss on the bleachers outside a school dance.

She arrived at the cathedral surrounded by family.

Before the services began, Officer Pawlowski's sister Lauren addressed the gathering, sharing stories of her brother who she called a fun-loving young man.

She also addressed Pawlowski's widow.

"Kimmy, it was you who put purpose into Johnny's life. It was you who inspired him, it was you who gave him courage to do what he does," Lauren Pawlowski said.

She also recalled a time when her brother reminded them why he served the city as a police officer.

"Steven and Kimmy would say 'John, I don't know how you do it. You go to work every day, you see the things you see, you do the things you do. How do you do it? I couldn't do it' Johnny's response was, he turned to them and looked and said 'Sometimes, I look into the eyes of the people I'm helping, and I realize I make difference. It's not every day, but sometimes I look into the eyes of the people I'm helping, and I know the work I do makes a difference," Lauren Pawlowski said.

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey again found himself before a grieving family, and police force.

"Here we are again. Five times in less than 10 months, standing here in the Cathedral Basilica, laying to rest another hero, John Pawlowski," said Commissioner Ramsey.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter read a letter from President Barack Obama to Pawlowski's family. "Michelle and I offer our heartfelt sympathy. May the cherished memories of John console you as you grieve, and may his sacrifice be rewarded with eternal peace."

The mass was celebrated by Carindal Justin Rigali, who said this violence invaded the womb, noting Kim Pawlowski is five months pregnant.

"We will continue to do our best to offer solidarity to Kim and all of Officer Pawlowski's family, friends, and colleagues," Cardinal Rigali said.

The cathedral holds about 1,500 people, and hundreds more gathered outside as the funeral services began.

Among the crowd were officers from police agencies from near and far, here to pay their respects to Officer Pawlowski.

"We're here for the officer's family, Officer Pawlowski. It's a tragedy what happened, and we're just here to show our condolences and to be here for the family and each other," said Ptlm. Mark Marchesi of the Parskside Borough Police.

Among those gathered was plenty of concern for not only Officer Pawlowski's family but for the larger law enforcement community as well.

"I think it's sad day for all of Pennsylvania and all of Philadelphia," said Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett. "The lack of respect for the safety of police officers is reaching a level that I don't think anybody ever would have expected."

"It's heart-felt to see these law enforcement officers from all over come down and display their sympathy towards the family," said Ofc. Renee Bunion of the Philadelphia Police.

After the service, the mournful sound of bagpipes could be heard as the casket was taken from the cathedral. Officer Pawloski's grieving widow and family followed behind.

A large processional then left Center City and headed up I-95. People could be seen on the overpasses, stopping to pay their respects.

Fire trucks carrying a large American flag created an arch as the procession arrived at the Resurrection Cemetery in Bensalem, Pa.

Once at the burial site, a 21 gun salute echoed across the cemetery, as a crowd of family, friends and fellow officers said their final good-byes.

Officer Pawlowski had served on the force for five years.

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