It's oh so permanent, but it was amazing. When we were hurting and we were trying to heal, and we're swimming through every day trying to figure out how to get through everything, to go to something like this… it's so organized and so nationwide. It's so much bigger than us. —Shante Johnson
DRAPER — One by one, as names were being read from a podium, Draper resident Shante Johnson recalled feeling nervous.
“It was scary, all the emotions I was unaware of,” said Johnson.
But when the name of her husband, Draper Police Sgt. Derek Johnson, was finally read out loud, she said she felt proud his name was being added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial wall in Washington, D.C.
"I was so proud. I was proud on a lot of levels. I was proud of the honor that came from Utah, from our very own police department, and I was proud of the honor given to my husband," Johnson said.
Derek Johnson was shot and killed Sept. 1, 2013, after stopping to help a motorist who was pulled over in Draper. Now, his name is among thousands of other law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty.
Johnson and her 7-year-old son weren't in Washington D.C. alone. Several officers from Draper, their spouses, as well as other family members were able to make the trip thanks to donations from the community.
“We can’t thank them enough,” said Draper police officer Mike Elkins, who is also president of the Draper Fraternal Order of Police. “To see the community come together like that, to support us, was actually really nice. I think a lot of us weren’t really expecting it to be as powerful as it was."
Draper officers wanted Johnson and her son to have a support group to lean on during the ceremonies. Even though the candlelight vigil, laying of the wreath, and name ceremony were all done with honor, for many spouses it’s almost like a second funeral.
"We actually ran into quite a few widows that didn't have the kind of support that Shante did,” said Amii Willie, who is with the Draper police department auxiliary. “It made a much bigger difference than any of us will ever know. Nobody wants to be alone during that time frame.”
The community financial support wasn't just for the memorial ceremonies.
Many people donated so Johnson's brothers, Dayson and Darin, and others, could participate in the recent Police Unity Tour bike ride from New Jersey to Washington to honor fallen officers.
Even though the first day of the ride included rain and hail, Dayson Johnson said there was no way they weren't going to finish.
"I couldn't see anything, but like two inches of water in front of me on the ground, and I was just like, ‘oh this is horrible,’ but the only thing I can look at is my brother's name on my wrist, and you think, he finished his race, I’m going to finish mine,” he said.
Both brothers say the police brotherhood they felt during the ride and ceremony is something they will never forget.
“We got some of that feel through the local police department and the surrounding police departments back home,” said Darin Johnson, “but not on a national level. We were basically adopted by this family and protected by this family for the entire ride.”Comment on this story
Most of Johnson’s family members and Draper officers stayed for a few days to take part in all the ceremonies.
Seeing Derek Johnson’s name on the wall was the most emotional part.
“It’s oh so permanent, but it was amazing," Shante Johnson said. "When we were hurting and we were trying to heal, and we’re swimming through every day trying to figure out how to get through everything, to go to something like this it’s so organized and so nationwide. It’s so much bigger than us."