WITH VIDEO: Pardon Paramus Police Officer Rachel Morgan if she was somewhat overwhelmed by the enormity of the Stamford Police Department’s fifth annual memorial parade, as rows of motorcycles, pipe and drum corps from Bergen County and other areas and hundreds of police officers in formal dress descended on city headquarters following a march down Bedford Street.
Paramus P.O. Rachel Morgan at Stamford ceremony
Stamford had officers of its own to honor Friday. Several of the speakers, including U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, also spoke of how poignant a moment it was, the sun setting over the horizon, as we celebrated the military operation that brought Osama bin Laden to final justice.
There was also a spine-tingling police radio recording played over the loudspeakers of Stamford Officer Richard Gasparino’s near-death experience when he was shot through the cheek and neck during an arrest of a suspected drug dealer.
Through every speech ran the common thread of fellowship, of the bonds that run deeply among police, of the community they inhabit.
When her turn came to speak, Morgan mostly looked down at her prepared remarks. She didn’t talk of herself, or of the risk she took in trying to stop a lunatic who clipped her cruiser on Route 17 Super Bowl night, or how he plugged her with four bullets after he crashed trying to get onto the Garden State Parkway in an attempt to get away. (
With music courtesy of The Police Pipes & Drums of Bergen County :
Instead, Morgan talked about her fellow officers — among them, Ryan Hayo, who was her backup that night, a “guardian angel” who also was honored by Stamford’s finest.
“With a little perseverance, I awoke from a coma and the first thing I saw was a Paramus Police Department patch on the shoulder of an officer,” Morgan told the hundreds gathered, many of them officers from throughout the Northeast.
With Hayo and Paramus Police Chief Christopher Brock at her side, she received one of the crowd’s loudest and most sustained applauses.
Later that night, Morgan made her way through a jubilant block party, joking with members of The Police Pipes & Drums of Bergen County — one of the nation’s finest outfits of its kind.
Earlier, a half-mile parade began at Veteran’s Park, across from Stamford’s Old Town Hall, and made its way down a revitalized Bedford Street, before the ceremony at headquarters. Besides Blumenthal, the honorary guests included Stamford’s own Bobby Valentine, former Mets manager and current ESPN color commentator.
Marching units from New Jersey, New York, Connecticut — and even a 1970s-style cruiser from the Wyoming highway patrol — marched past restaurants and bars that later became magnets for a block party that lasted past midnight.
The sweetest dessert was an impromptu performance by the Bergen band in a small restaurant. The surprised patrons whooped, hollered and cheered, and the pipers and drummers played with gusto, as if it were a New Orleans funeral, honoring those law enforcement officers nationwide who paid the ultimate sacrifice. It was as moving a moment as any Friday.
The crowd applauded as Bergen’s own left the Stamford bar, headed for the buses that would bring them home.
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