ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- A police memorial that's been years in the making was unveiled Saturday during an emotional ceremony at Demens Landing Park.
"Heroes of the St. Petersburg Police" honors the memories of all 15 St. Petersburg police officers who have died in the line of duty since 1905, including three who were tragically shot and killed last year.
"It's incredible. It's awesome," said Lorraine Yaslowitz, whose late husband, K9 Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz, was among the officers killed in January 2011. "There are going to be a lot of tears here, I'm sure. But right now, it's very exciting after seeing this all come together."
A nonprofit called Heroes of the St. Pete Police raised money and support to make the memorial a reality, and to pay for years of maintenance.
For architect Andrew Hayes, the question was how to design the symbol of the ultimate sacrifice. What he helped create was a seven-foot-tall piece of granite with an officer's silhouette on it, along with an aluminum panel with each fallen officer's name on it. They are listed in no particular order, to represent the randomness with which their lives were taken. A path leading to the memorial is filled with names of people who contributed to the memorial,along withuplights inscribed with courage, loyalty, and other values that officers live by.
"The harrowing events of 2011 forever changed the men and women of the St. Petersburg Police Department, and it left a lasting scar upon the heart of St. Petersburg," Mayor Bill Foster said during the ceremony. "For all those who pause at this heroes' memorial, let it serve as a constant reminder of the sacrifices made by those who dedicated our lives to public safety."
Officer Yaslowitz and Sergeant Tom Baitinger were killed last January, shot as they served a warrant on a suspect wanted for aggravated battery.A month later, Officer David Crawford was responding to a report of a suspicious person when he, too, was shot to death.
"These 15 names are people, my heroes," said St. Petersburg Police Chief Chuck Harmon. "They decided to put on a badge, a gun, and police this community. They didn't have to, but they did."
That's why Lorraine Yaslowitz wants this monument to help their memories live on.
"To remember the sacrifice they put forth and their legacy lives on. They're not gone," she said.