Nearly 56 years after William S. Knight died, his widow put her shovel into the ground and wept softly as she joined the families of other slain police officers during a groundbreaking yesterday for the Baltimore City Police Memorial.
"You never forget. You still grieve," said Lola Knight, 94, whose husband was shot in the chest. "I am so glad to be here."
Knight, the oldest family member of an officer at the ceremony, leaned gently on Nina Bingham, the granddaughter of John Bianca, her late husband's partner.
More than 50 relatives, colleagues and friends of police officers who died in the line of duty helped break ground for the $3.5 million memorial in Shot Tower Park across from city police headquarters.
The families, who have planned and raised funds for the memorial for nearly three years, are trying to raise about $1.5 million to complete the project by November next year.
The black stone will "educate the citizens of Baltimore to the tragedies officers face every day," Julie Morgan-Krokowski, vice president of the memorial fund board, told a crowd of several hundred people.
Many relatives recalled the tragedies.
"I want people to walk by here and know what these men did for our community," said Carol Miconi, whose brother, Officer Vincent Adolfo, was killed Nov. 18, 1985. "We remember Vincent. This will help other people remember him, too."
For Officer Adolfo's widow, Lola Knight provided a courageous example.
"It gives us hope to know we can carry on and live with that grief," said Karen Adolfo.
The monument will serve as a reminder "of the good that was in this city, and still is," said Martha Wood, widow of Barry Wood, who died in a helicopter crash last year.
Etched into stone will be more than 100 names, including that of Officer Harold Jerome Carey, whose parents marked the one-year anniversary of their son's death at the groundbreaking.
"This monument doesn't just help me. It helps everyone who has a loved one in law enforcement reinforce the value of public service and the ultimate gift of life," said Harold Carey Sr.
Nelson F. Bell Sr.'s son and namesake was killed at the Trailways Bus Terminal in 1978. A visit to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington strengthened Bell's resolve to establish a local monument.
"We have seen all the names in Washington, but it means something to all of us to have something here," Bell said. "My son was special to his own city, and now he will not be forgotten here."
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said yesterday the public should take as many opportunities as it can to thank officers and their families.
"When we are caught up in controversy, we should remember these officers are in touch with the community thousands of times a week," he said.
"They operate professionally with care and sensitivity. It is the toughest task any public servant can do," Schmoke said.
Several officers lingered after the ceremony, many clustering with their colleagues.
"It makes you reflect on how dangerous the job is," said Lt. J. J. Windle. "I know 12 whose names are going to be on there. It really strikes home, especially when you see their families."