After the long and emotional service drew to a close, the colleagues of the three fallen Pittsburgh police officers slowly filed out of the Petersen Events Center.
As one row emptied yesterday afternoon, many of the mourners in police blue bent over to grasp the shoulder of or exchange a word with the one officer who was not standing. He was Brian Jones, in a wheelchair with a broken leg since falling while responding to the shootings of April 4.
Speakers at the memorial service noted his presence and that of Timothy McManaway, wounded in the hand, as reminders of the enduring bonds shared by so many members of an audience dominated by police officers from across the country.
"To all who were on the scene that fateful morning, I am in awe of you,'' Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said. "Whether you were in the SWAT truck, positioned on a roof, serving food to officers in need or comforting a neighbor shaken by tragedy, you made a difference."
Officer McManaway was nicked by a bullet or shrapnel as he came to the aid of Officer Eric G. Kelly. Assistant Chief William Bochter told the audience that Officer McManaway ignored the danger to his own life as he struggled to save that of his colleague.
Officer Jones, attempting to secure the back of the house that still contained the gunman, broke his leg as a fence collapsed beneath him.
Assistant Chief Bochter called on the crowd to rise to honor first Officer McManaway then Officer Jones.
To each, the thousands of mourners responded with long, standing ovations.
Then the assistant chief called for the mourners to recognize all of the family of officers from Zone 5, the Highland Park unit that was the working home of the three slain officers -- Eric G. Kelly, Paul Sciullo II and Stephen J. Mayhle.
The crowd rose for one more ovation for the closest working comrades of the dead.
Most were there to hear it in person and to honor the friends who would never again join their roll call. That was because officers from other stations all over the city volunteered to work Zone 5 shifts in their place yesterday afternoon.
James O'Toole can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1562.