Before the shooting early last Sunday morning, I had never heard of “Officer K”, as they referred to Officer Charles Kondek, who died in the line of duty. Very quickly they put up a memorial in front of the police station in Tarpon Springs.
Yesterday Marcia and I went by to pay our respects, and we too, along with hundreds of others, left some flowers. We also bought a memorial shirt and two wrist bands, sold by the Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association with the proceeds going to the family. We gave the shirt to Marcia’s brother Mike, who once served on the force, and a wrist band to his daughter Alysia, who is a member of the Pinellas Sheriff’s department where she works at the County Jail….Marcia is wearing the other wrist band.
As you can see, this is quite an outpouring from the community and from fellow officers. While there we ran into a friend of Marcia and Mikes, Harry, who was very somber. He use to volunteer on the force years ago, and currently works for one of the Pinellas County DMV offices. It was nice to see him again, wish the circumstances were different.
We watched the two hour funeral on TV this morning, which concluded with police officers loading the casket into the hearse. It was a very emotional service, which included his young 15 year old daughter giving an amazing eulogy of her father, where she said, "My dad was a phenomenal father, husband and, of course, police officer….My dad died as a hero, but he was my hero before any of yours." How she said what she said without a break in her voice is beyond me….Marcia and I had tears in our eyes, and neither of us could speak. We also heard stories from fellow police officers, and from his Pastor and the Pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church, a church nearby which is big enough to handle a crowd like this.
The funeral procession route is shown on this map above. “A” is where the funeral was held, “B” is Tarpon Springs, and “C” is the cemetery. With the procession passing within a block of our condo, we went down and parked along Highway 19, and wow…..it blew us away.
Our timing could not have been better. Here the hearse had just turned from Alt. 19 onto highway 19 headed north to Hudson. About a dozen motorcycles and police cars had already passed, and police had been stationed along the route from the time the funeral had ended. By now the funeral had been over for about 75 minutes….so it took a good hour just to reach our location.
If you look beyond the hearse, you see cars headed southbound which have been stopped…and people are getting out of their cars. No complaints, no honking horns, people who are caught in the moment and have accepted that to show respect to the officers and the family is more important than the destination they are headed to. And boy were they going to be late!
It is hard to pick out the shots to share. This shot is facing to the north, around 100 police cars and emergency vehicles have passed by, and then this precession of motorcycles….with active officers leading the way, and retired officers on their own bikes close behind…around a hundred motorcycles I figure.
By now the motorcycles are way down the road, and they were followed by another precession of police cars, about another hundred or so just since the motorcycles went past.
And although there some stragglers still, this was just about the end of it. I think the stragglers were made up of officers who had blocked off streets along Alt. 19 in Tarpon Springs. But here is a pretty good look at the crowd along highway 19 in Holiday showing their respects on both sides of the highway. What looked like just a few when we arrived, turned out to be a nice little crowd…and I am sure it was like this all the way through Holiday, through New Port Richey, through Port Richey and into Hudson. I can only imagine what it was like in Tarpon Springs.
While I was taking pictures out along the street, Marcia was using the other camera and getting pictures of the different Police Cars as they go by. Above is a Tarpon Springs car. Everyone on the Tarpon Springs Police force were able to attend the funeral because the County took over all the police calls for the day.
And we did not even get them all! I have been to a number of funerals, even conducted a few in my day way back. When I was 17 my Geometry Teacher died just months after he saw two of his girls, both friends of mine, graduate from High School…I was asked to be a Pall Bearer, and I was honored to do so. That was a very large funeral. I have seen a few military funerals, and they are something else. But I have seen nothing like this except on television, and as you see all these police cars, and fire trucks, and ambulances, and un-marked cars going down the street with their lights flashing, some with sirens blaring, let me tell you, it puts a lump in your throat, it brings tears to your eyes, and it makes you proud to be an American…and it gets you angry over the senseless death of a wonderful father, husband, and policeman…and with everything going on in this land where THUGS are trying to rule the land and blame is being placed on these fine men and women, it is enough to make one sick.