The bodies of three slain Pittsburgh police officers were lying in repose in the City-County Building, Downtown, tonight, where police and members of the public were paying their respects over a 20-hour period.
As midnight approached, hundreds still waited their turn, a crowd composed of emergency workers, relatives, officers and scores of citizens just off their night shift jobs. At dusk, the line of mourners stretched down Grant Street and curled around Third Avenue.
There were many different faces in the line today; police officers from far-away cities, children clutching hands, old friends and relatives of the fallen officers and strangers who never knew them but felt compelled to pay a tribute.
The lobby of the Grant Street building has been transformed, with black carpeting on the floor, lilies in the windowsills and black crepe along the walls. The block-long lobby is largely silent, save for sobbing visitors and music from a chamber music quartet.
Scores of family members of Eric Kelly, Paul Sciullo II and Stephen Mayhle first gathered on the steps of the portico on a sunny but bracingly cold day and then followed as the flag-draped caskets were carried, in that order, into the building. Bagpipers played and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl opened the building's doors for the caskets.
They were followed by some 500 uniformed police, who lined up behind them, and then public officials. Police were largely from Western Pennsylvania, though others were on site from as far as Boston, Syracuse, N.Y., and Washington, D.C. More than 15,000 are expected for a memorial service tomorrow.
About 100 officers came from the Boston area, some of whom had just traveled for the services of four slain officers in Oakland, Calif.
"We have the same jobs. We are different people from different departments with the same job," explained Boston Sgt. John Fitzgerald, a 13-year police veteran. Asked how many police services he had attended, tears welled in his eyes. "Too many," he said.
Members of the general public began visitations around 4 p.m., and hundreds gathered hours earlier as the caskets were carried into the hall. Lines moved quickly down two sides of the long lobby, with the three caskets -- each with a portrait, an honor guard and a table for flowers -- in the middle.
Hard-nosed city detectives gathered at the exit from the lobby on Ross Street, their eyes filled with tears. Other visitors cried as well, though they had no personal connections to the officers.
"I'm a Pittsburgher. That's what Pittsburghers do," said Turtle Creek's Darryl Whiteside, who had waited outside the building since 9 a.m.
He saw similarities between the long miles police had traveled to get here today with the outpouring of support from Pittsburgh locals. "We take care of our own," he said.
"We're just here to show support for the families," said Chicago police officer Michael Carroll, who last week drove 38 hours in a squad car to mourn four dead officers in Oakland, Calif. This time, he and officer Casey O'Neill traveled seven hours in their personal car and found themselves at the end of a steadily growing line.
"It's really disheartening that folks think its so easy to shoot police. They don't have the respect for police that they should."
The Chicago officers planned to attend tomorrow's memorial and said they would find comfort in the presence of out-of-state officers should tragedy befall Chicago's force.
The three Pittsburgh officers were shot as they responded to a domestic incident in Stanton Heights on Saturday morning.
Their hearses, accompanied by motorcycle escort, were greeted at city hall by a color guard, bag pipers and three County Police riderless horses with boots turned backward in the stirrups.
Several blocks of Grant Street have been closed to traffic, and parking is restricted on several others Downtown.
Visitation ends at 10 a.m. tomorrow, when preparations begin for a procession to a public memorial at 1 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center at the University of Pittsburgh.
More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.