In the early hours of May 19, Phoenix police officer Daryl Raetz and his partner were finishing up at the scene of a suspected DUI, when another car struck Raetz, who died shortly after being transported to a hospital. The 29-year old had served Phoenix for six years before this tragic night, and he left behind a wife and young daughter.
Yesterday, as 5-year old Tatum Raetz graduated from kindergarten, the officers in her father’s squad and precinct had quietly planned to attend and remind the girl that while her father may be gone, they are all still watching out for her. But secrets are a hard thing to keep in the workplace, and soon word spread throughout the entire police department, until almost 300 officers arrived to support Tatum on her big day.
“When they stepped out of the car, they saw a sea of blue out there. The officers were clapping, calling out her name, congratulating her,” said Phoenix police department spokesman James Holmes, who attended the ceremony. “The look on her face was absolutely priceless.”
Tatum was given a bouquet of flowers before she walked down the line of officers, at times shyly hiding behind her mother. The girl’s elation was obvious, as were the officers enjoying the bittersweet moment.
“We probably soaked the sidewalk,” Holmes said. “It was impossible not to be emotional in that moment.” (Via Today)
Obviously, the school wasn’t expecting an extra 300 people, so the event turned into a standing room only affair, as the officers in attendance – many of whom were coming off of late night and double shifts – stayed and cheered for all of the kids throughout the entire event, as well as a fundraiser for the Raetz family and Phoenix firefighter Bradley Harper, who was also killed in the line of duty.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get some Claritin, because my allergies are out of control and I’ve been chopping a ton of onions.