Dallas police Detective Christine Smith sat at her desk Friday afternoon and looked at the clock. It was 1 p.m.
“This time last year, it seemed like just a regular, normal day,” Smith said.
But before July 7, 2016, ended, everything changed: At about 9 p.m., a gunman opened fire on police officers who were working a peaceful protest downtown, killing four Dallas Police Department officers and one DART officer.
Smith on Friday was one of dozens of law enforcement officers at a one-year anniversary vigil for the slain officers on the plaza outside City Hall.
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Sgt. Michael Smith, senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, officers Michael Krol and Patrick Zamarripa and DART officer Brent Thompson were the officers killed in last year’s attack.
The vigil Friday night kicked off the Weekend of Honor, a series of events sponsored by the Dallas Police Association and the Officer Down Association of Greater Dallas in memory of the five officers.
“This is a day Dallas will always remember,” Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway told the crowd of officers and several hundred citizens. Caraway also read a letter on behalf of Mayor Mike Rawlings.
“Today is and always should be about honoring all officers and heroes who protected peaceful protesters,” Rawlings’ letter said. “We will never forget your sacrifice.”
There’s no expiration date that says, ‘OK, this is when you get through it.’
Dallas police Detective Christine Smith
U.S. representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson and Pete Sessions also spoke, praising the officers’ sacrifice and the way they protected the protesters from gunman Micah Johnson last year.
“They did not hide, they did not cower, they did not run,” Sessions said. “They faced down a killer.”
State Sen. Royce West asked the crowd to think of all officers’ spouses, who live with the fear of losing a loved one every day.
One year ago, “Some of those loved ones didn’t return home,” West said.
After the speakers, the crowd joined hands for a walk down Young Street toward El Centro College, near where the ambush happened, and back to the Dallas Police Memorial near City Hall.
At the police memorial, “Taps” was played on a trumpet and “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes at 8:58 p.m., marking the exact moment shots rang out one year ago. The service Friday wasn’t the end of the officers’ grief, just another step along the way, Detective Smith said.
“It’s a daily process,” she said. “There’s no expiration date that says, ‘OK, this is when you get through it.’ It’s just something that you work through daily.”