The view from the street: 'He's a hero to us. All the police officers are'
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
HOLLADAY — To her small children waving flags and giggling each time one of the many passing police vehicles blared its siren, the long procession looked like a parade.
But as Amber Suarez watched the motorcade following the hearse containing Unified police officer Doug Barney's body drive through the streets he once patrolled, she saw something her children didn't.
"The officers are crying, they're crying in their cars," she said.
Suarez and her children were among the hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of spectators who lined the streets for Barney, who was gunned down Jan. 17 while responding to a traffic accident in his Holladay precinct. Following funeral services attended by thousands of law enforcement officers from around the country, a procession of police vehicles escorted Barney's body more than 50 miles from West Valley City, where he lived, through Holladay and south to the Orem City Cemetery.
A sea of flags and blue ribbons marked the route, including massive flags in West Valley and Holladay suspended between the ladders of two fire trucks. Signs outside schools and businesses memorialized Barney and thanked his partner, Unified police officer Jon Richey, who was also shot that day. Richey is recovering after a bullet went through both his legs.
Bringing her 3-year-old son, Mike, and her 5-year-old daughter, Mikaylie, to the procession along 2300 East in Holladay was Suarez's way of offering support to Barney's family while teaching her children about compassion and community. It's a conversation the family will continue to have for years to come as their children grow, Suarez said.
"I'm sure when we look back on it we'll explain it more, because this has a huge impact on us even as adults, it's so emotional," Suarez said. "I don't think you could see this kind of support anywhere else for a fallen officer. Here it's so colorful and amazing and supportive and beautiful to see. I hope my kids grow up learning that's how America is."
For years, Mikaylie has said she wants to be a police officer, her mother said. The 5-year-old was baffled, however, when the family heard gunshots down the street from their Holladay home and her parents explained that an officer had been shot.
"We could hear all the cops calling. When they said, 'officer down,' oh gosh, it just sunk my heart," Suarez said. "When we told the kids about it, we hoped there would be something like this so we could show them that there is a lot of support for (police officers)."
Across the street, Suarez's oldest daughter, 6-year-old Mariah, watched the procession and waved a flag for Barney with other students from Crestview Elementary School. Her first-grade teacher, Dana Easton, hopes that watching the procession, along with conversations in the classroom, gave the students an enduring respect for police officers.
"A lot of the kids have said to me today that they want to grow up to be police officers," Easton said. "He's a hero to us. All the police officers are."
Those who knew Barney remembered him Monday as unfailingly kind and uproariously funny, a dedicated father and husband to his family and a brother to the officers he worked with. For many others, who have learned of the officer's life since his death last week, Barney has become a powerful example of service in the community.
Amy Griffiths, of Holladay, checked her 14-year-old daughter, Annie, out of school to join her at the procession.
"They were protecting our very homes, and us, right here. Not many people, I think, put their life on the line when they go to work," Amy Griffiths said. "I hope that it gives some comfort to the family, that it didn't go unnoticed or unappreciated."
Her daughter, Annie, said she will always remember a sense of awe as she looked out over the crowded street.
"Our small little community has brought so much support," Annie said. "People from all over have come to support one police officer who did so much."
Christian Clinger, a senior at Olympus High School, stood with his friends outside their school to watch the procession pass. Classes were dismissed early Monday in anticipation of heavy traffic from the procession, but Clinger was part of a large group of students who stayed anyway to show respect for the officer.
"To see everyone out here, it just shows how much strength we have together," Clinger said. "It's a great thing to see the community come together over something like this. It's a tragic event, but I think it shows the best of our human nature when we come together."
Like many of his classmates, Clinger wore a sticker with a single blue line on it, handed out by the school's student officers. The sticker read, "Thank you to those who serve and protect — We support blue."
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