DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – An estimated 2,500 dignitaries, police officers and other first-responders began arriving at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center hours before the memorial for five fallen police officers was set to begin early Tuesday afternoon.READ MORE: Allergy Sufferers, Get Ready; Pollen Count Expected To Jump As We Approach The Weekend
Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill arrived at Dallas Love Field Airport, onboard Air Force Two, at exactly 12 noon. President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrived on Air Force One about 15 minutes later.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price were among the local leaders greeting Vice President Biden and President Obama.
For the better part of two hours there were hundreds of police officers, from Texas and out-of-state, streaming into the Meyerson to be a part of the memorial.
Despite the memorial not being open to the public, hundreds of people flocked to the Meyerson. Many of those who made the trip, on a very hot afternoon, came from across North Texas. Many said that whether they caught a glimpse of President Obama or not they wanted to be in a place where others with the same spirit of mourning were gathered.
As more than 2,000 people filled the Meyerson Symphony Center to capacity, the Dallas Police Choir sung hymns as those in attendance waited for the President and Vice President to arrive and looked on at the five empty seats in the first row of the balcony, holding only folded American flags and individual Dallas police hats, to honor the five slain police officers.
President Obama and the First Lady Michelle, along with Vice President Biden and his wife Jill and former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura were greeted with a standing ovation as they entered the service seconds before 1:00 p.m.
A military color guard presented the flag as the choir sang the national anthem.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings was the first to take the stage where he said thank you to everyone attending for accepting the invitation to attend the service. He spoke in particular to police officers saying, “We offer our gratitude to you our cops. Including those who have traveled here to support your brothers and sisters in the Dallas Police Department, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Police, and the El Centro College Police Force… ladies and gentleman thank you, thank you for coming.”
The Mayor said the goal going forward is clear. “To wage this battle against violence and separatism today must be about unity. Unity among faiths, unity among police and citizens, and yes unity among politicians.”
The Mayor said he searched his soul trying to figure out what mistakes were made and wondered “why us.” But then he said he discovered the City had done nothing wrong. “Dallas is very, very good,” he said to a standing ovation. “Our police are among the best in the country. I am in awe of our Dallas police officers.”
After Mayor Rawlings spoke a consensus of North Texas faith leaders, including United Methodist Church of Texas Rev. Sheron Patterson, Valley Ranch Islamic Center Imam Omar Suleiman and Temple Shalom Dallas senior Rabbi Andrew Marc Paley, took the stage to offer their individual prayers.
After a performance of the gospel song “Total Praise” by the Interfaith Choir, Texas Senator John Cornyn took the podium. “In times of darkness, when it’s hard to hold onto hope, we must remember that these men, along with their fellow officers, were not ultimately overcome by evil,” he said.
Cornyn later introduced former President George W. Bush. He quickly explained that, “Those of us who love Dallas and call it home have had five deaths in the family.”READ MORE: Man Found Shot Dead In Parking Lot In Dallas Late Wednesday Night
The former President detailed what so many Americans take for granted. “Every officer has accepted a calling that sets them apart,” he said. “Most of us imagine if the moment called for that we would risk our lives to protect a spouse or a child. Those wearing the uniform assume that risk for the safety of strangers.”
Mr. Bush went on to say that, “None of us were prepared or could be prepared for an ambush by hatred and malaise. The shock of this evil still has not faded.”
After Mr. Bush spoke Mayor Rawlings again took the stage, first to thank DART Police and their chief and then to introduce Dallas Police Chief and south Oak Cliff native David Brown — who took the stage to a roaring, lengthy standing ovation.
Quoting lyrics from the song “As” from Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life” album the Chief said, “God knew exactly where he wanted you to be placed. So make sure when you say you in it but not of it you’re not helping to make this earth a place sometimes called hell. Change your words into truth and then change that truth into love.”
Before introducing the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, Chief Brown said, “There’s no greater love than this that these five men gave their lives for all of us.”
“For the men and women who protect and serve the people of Dallas last Thursday began like any other day,” the President said. “But your work and the work of police officers across the country is like no other, for the moment you put on that uniform you have answered a call that at any moment, even in the briefest interaction, may put your life in harms way.”
President Obama then detailed some of the lives of each of the officers lost –
- Dallas Police Sgt. Michael Smith, 55, a former Army Ranger who had been with the department since 1989.
- Dallas Police Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens who had been with the department since 2002.
- Dallas Police Officer Michael Krol who had been with the department since 2007.
- Dallas Police Officer Patrick Zamarripa a former Navy sailor and Iraq War veteran who had been with the department since 2011.
- Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Officer Brent Thompson a former Marine who had been with the department since 2009.
“Faced with this violence we wonder if the divides of race in America can ever be bridged. We wonder if an African American community that feels unfairly targeted by police and police departments that feel unfairly maligned for doing their jobs can ever understand each other’s experience,” he said.
To applause the President said, “I understand. I understand how Americans are feeling. But Dallas I am here to say that we must reject such despair. I’m here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem and I know that because I know America. I know how far we’ve come against impossible odds.”
The President said that Dallas and the country are mourning fewer people today because of the brave actions of members of law enforcement. “When the bullets started flying the men and women of the Dallas Police they did not flinch and they did not react recklessly. They showed incredible restraint. Helped in some cases by protestors, they evacuated the injured, isolated the shooter [and] saved more lives than we will ever know.”
Unfortunately this isn’t the first time President Obama has attended a service after a deadly attack. “I have spoken at too many memorials during the course of this Presidency. I’ve hugged too many families who’ve lost a loved one to senseless violence,” he said.
The President stated clearly that, “We know that the overwhelming majority of police officers do an incredibly hard and dangerous job fairly and professionally. They are deserving of our respect and not our scorn. And when anyone, no matter how good their intentions may be, paints all police as bias or bigoted we undermine those officers we depend on for our safety.”
The President began his speech at 1:45p.m. local and wrapped it up at 2:25 p.m. to a standing ovation.
The organist and choir performed the Battle Hymn of the Republic and the dignitaries on stage joined hands in a show of unity.
For more than an hour after today’s service, the President and First Lady met with the families of the officers who were killed and many of those who were wounded, including law enforcement officers from Dallas Police Department, Dallas Area Rapid Transit and El Centro College, according to the White House. The Vice President and Dr. Biden and President George W. Bush and Mrs. Bush participated as well.MORE NEWS: Major League Baseball Plunged Into First Contract Related 'Lockout' In Quarter-Century
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