DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It was just before 9:00 p.m. on July 7, 2016 when a gunman opened fire as a peaceful protest in downtown Dallas was coming to an end.

Police officers across the city were working security during the march against police shootings when shots rang out. The gunman specifically targeted white officers as he ran through the streets of downtown, eventually barricading himself above the loading area at El Centro College.

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Police ambush in downtown Dallas on July 7, 2016. (credit: Robert Moore/photographer)

Then DPD Chief David Brown made the decision to send in a bomb robot and kill the suspect. When the smoke cleared, after a lengthy attack and hours-long manhunt, Dallas Police Department Officers, Michael Smith, Lorne Ahrens, Patrick Zamarripa and Michael Krol, and Dallas Area Rapid Transit Officer Brent Thompson were dead and nine other police officers and two civilians lie injured.

Today the Dallas Police Department, the families of the fallen and members of the community came together to honor the officers killed in the ambush two years ago tomorrow.

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(credit: CBSDFW.COM)

The tribute, held at the main entrance of Dallas police headquarters, began with prayers from four different clergy members from the Dallas faith community.

After the prayers Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall addressed those in attendance. “We assemble here today as a celebration of life,” she said. “These officers left a legacy and we need to honor that legacy be remembering them and remembering the families… honoring you each and everyday.”

Chief Hall then read a roll call of those killed on July 7 and also recognized Officer Rogelio Santander, who was killed when a gunman opened fire inside a Home Depot store in April.

Chief Hall recalled the day of the ambush saying it was one of the deadliest days in law enforcement history, but that it was also the department’s finest hour. “The brave men and women of the Dallas Police Department faced adversity and became the beacon of courage and public service to all law enforcement officers across this country.”

It was asked that the family and friends of those lost no longer mourn their passing but celebrate the lives they lived. “If you did not know them personally then I challenge you to find someone who did,” Chief Hall encouraged. “Learn how they were good fathers and loving husbands, pranksters who could fill a room with laughter, thoughtful, kind and always thinking of others, or how one may have been big in stature but embodied a gentle and loving spirit. And if tears ever flow from your face let it be tears of joy and not of sadness for they are in a better place and their legacy lives on with us.”

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(credit: CBSDFW.COM)

The ceremony closed with the families of those lost releasing a single white balloon as the name of their fallen loved one was read aloud. After those balloons floated away more than a dozen members of the Dallas Police Department released balloons as a group to remember their comrades.

In addition to the remembrance today, the Dallas Officer Down Foundation is sponsoring a 35 mile motorcycle ride. The event begins tomorrow morning at Dallas City Hall Plaza and ends on Northwest Highway where participants will have a private movie screening at Studio Movie Grill.

“The anniversary itself is something that uh, obviously brings back horrible memories for us. However, it’s something that’s going to come every year,” said Willie Ford, a DPD Sergeant and the CEO of the Black Police Association.

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(credit: CBSDFW.COM)

The ambush in 2016 took the life of Officer Patrick Zamarripa. The 32-year-old Fort Worth native was a loving father. He was also a Navy veteran who survived three tours during the Iraq War.

Officer Michael Krol was a Michigan native who dreamed of serving and protecting in Dallas. After working as a security guard and a corrections officer, the 40-year-old was a member of DPD for eight years.

Sr. Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, a former semi-pro football player, served with the Dallas Police Department for 14 years. Loved ones said he had a crooked smile and a wicked sense of humor. He was a father of two and husband to a fellow police officer.

Sgt. Michael Smith was also the father of two kids. Family said the 55-year-old died doing what he loved. He was a former Army Ranger, and at the time of his death had been married for 17 years.

Officer Brent Thompson is the first DART officer to die in the line of duty. The 43-year-old officer had just married a fellow transit officer two weeks before the shooting. Thompson also left behind six children.