The maneuver did not save Read’s life. But his colleague survived.
Monday, a week after the massacre that left 12 people and the shooter dead and the nation grappling with the fallout of another mass shooting, Read’s colleagues at the Naval Sea Systems Command were among 200 family members and friends who mourned his death at a private service in an Alexandria funeral home. They spoke of Read’s final moments, for the first time describing his selfless effort to save the life of a co-worker as he faced down a killer.
“If it was not for Gerald, my hero, for pushing me down in the cubicle and my God guarding over me, I would not be here today,” the co-worker who survived wrote in a remembrance she was too broken up to deliver. Another colleague read it. It called Read the woman’s “guardian angel and hero.”
Those who worked with Read — all of whom asked that their names not be used because the attack devastated them — provided poignant accounts of both the stark violence that surrounded Read’s death and the quiet heroism of his life.
Read, 58, was a longtime Army officer who rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He had a background in military law enforcement and later became a civilian expert in cybersecurity for the Navy. He worked in a tight-knit office in the Navy Yard’s Building 197.
His memorial service at Jefferson Funeral Chapel began with military honors, replete with the strains of taps from a bugler playing outside an open door and the careful folding of an American flag.
A Navy officer presented the flag to Read’s widow, Cathy, to whom he was married for 35 years. Adm. John Richardson, director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, told the gathering that Read “gave the greatest possible gift, paid the ultimate sacrifice. He gave everything he had.”
Sean Read described his uncle as a man of character who had once been an Eagle Scout and helped his nephew reach the same goal. Reflecting on what happened in Read’s final moments, Sean said: “Without a doubt in my mind, Jerry helped others until he could do so no more.”
Read’s former boss, Tony Geddie, recalled him as an articulate, detail-minded expert who mastered cybersecurity laws and regulations. He was “the consummate professional” but also took time for the people around him, Geddie said.
He recalled that Read often looked out for another colleague killed that day, Sylvia Frasier. “His teammates, they loved him, and so did I,” Geddie said.
Others spoke of Read’s humor — a deftness with carefully timed one-liners — and his years in Pennsylvania, where he often took the brunt of older brother David’s pranks.
“In our family, he had the distinction of being the brainiac,” David Read said.