On Feb. 13, 2001, Sue Nickerson woke her son Michael. He had worked a shift as a Centreville police officer that night and was going to help with Nickerson's other son in the morning.
"At that point I told him 'I love you and I'm proud of you.' Little did I know those were the last words I said to my son," Nickerson said during a memorial service Friday at the Maryland Public Safety Training Center in Sykesville.
Michael Nickerson, 25, was shot later that day while on duty and died from his injuries. He is one of the many Maryland police officers who have died in the line of fire and were honored at the memorial service. According to the pamphlet, none of the officers listed were members of Carroll's municipal police forces or the Carroll County Sheriff's Office. Maryland State Police troopers were not listed by barrack.
Friday was proclaimed by Gov. Larry Hogan to be Tribute to Maryland Police and Correctional Officers Day, according to a proclamation read by Bruce Lohr, the chair of the Fallen Heroes Committee.
Members of Maryland law enforcement gathered in Sykesville to honor the fallen heroes, including Sheriff Jim DeWees, Col. Larry Suther of the sheriff's office and Sykesville Chief Michael Spaulding. Carroll Commissioners Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, and Steve Wantz, R-District 1, also attended the ceremony.
Nickerson is the president of the Maryland Concerns of Police Survivors. The group helps support families of fallen soldiers as well as the other officers who have lost members of their organizations.
"As you know, everybody has a story. Someone they know or worked with," Nickerson said after the service.
Albert Liebno Jr., acting executive director of the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions, shared a reflection someone had left on a memorial page to fallen officers that Liebno monitors.
The reflection was left by a friend of an officer who died approximately 41 years ago. In the days before the officer's death, he had stopped by the friend's place after his shift because something told him to catch up with his friend, according to the reflection Liebno read.
Liebno also knew the officer. They had attended the academy together, he said.
"I was the first trooper on the scene. So don't think for a second we don't impact these families. We do," Liebno said.
And it's important to the families of fallen officers that their loved ones are never forgotten, Nickerson said. After her son's death, multiple officers told her that he would always be remembered. She told the officers at the service that they carry the heart and soul of fallen officers.
With the current environment toward law enforcement, it is even more important to remember fallen officers, Nickerson said after the service.
"You have to embrace the fact when you're told they'll never be forgotten. Embracing that … really helps you move through it," she said.
Rothschild said that he attended to honor the tough job they do on behalf of everyone else.
"Very simple. Across America there's an assault on our police officers by the fringe 1 percent. And I want them to know, as an elected official, 99 percent stands with them," he said.
Wantz said he tries to attend as many memorial services as he can. He has 40 years of public safety in his background and understands the sacrifice first responders and their families make, he said.
"They put their lives on the line every day. For me, it's about honoring the families of the fallen," Wantz said.