A Second Police Funeral, a Mosaic of Grief
Sunday, May 21, 2006
The church service for Fairfax County police officer Michael Garbarino was still finishing up yesterday afternoon, and 30 or so miles away, on a grassy slope in front of University Mall, in front of the McDonald's and the Giant, people started waiting, each for slightly different reasons.
At first there were just a few -- the woman in light blue whose son is a county police officer, who said she "tries not to obsess" about his safety these days, reading a Barbara Taylor Bradford novel.
There was Elizabeth Osinski, pale and small, who talked about order, who wondered "why in God's name any American has an AK-47," as Garbarino's killer did.
About 2 p.m., a man with a police scanner was pacing the grass, and Cathy and Dan Clarke, like everyone else, were there to show their appreciation for the people who "give us peace," those who, Cathy Clarke said, "worry so we don't have to worry."
Eventually, more than 200 people came to the little hill in front of Braddock Road, and across the county thousands more gathered along the long funeral procession route -- on overpasses, along medians, in front of gas stations, wherever they were -- waiting in the sun for the river of mourning to pass, to express gratitude to those who, as Osinski put it, guard the "fine line between civility and incivility."
For the second time in eight days, Saturday in Fairfax County began with a hearse rolling up to McLean Bible Church carrying the body of a slain officer from a department that had never had an officer killed by an assailant in its 66-year history.
On May 8, Michael W. Kennedy, an 18-year-old with mental problems, drove to the Sully District police station in Chantilly in a stolen vehicle and began firing, 70 rounds in all, leaving Detective Vicky O. Armel dead and Garbarino mortally wounded. Kennedy, who was heavily armed, was shot to death by several officers in the gun battle that followed on the sunny Monday afternoon.
As Armel, 40, was buried last Saturday, there was still hope that Garbarino, 53, would survive. But he died Wednesday, and at the church yesterday, more than 3,000 people watched as his coffin was carried inside and placed next to two portraits of Jesus.
After 23 years of service, Garbarino was laid to rest in his uniform.
"I had hoped we would not have to gather again so soon," Fairfax Police Chief David M. Rohrer told those assembled, who included Garbarino's wife, Sue, and daughters, Katie, 14, and Natalie, 10. "As I said last Saturday, we have been transformed."
Rohrer said things to fortify his colleagues, calling the two officers models of strength and optimism in the face of tough and numbing work, quoting Martin Luther King Jr. on the need for "infinite hope."
"For an increasing number, I fear that anger, although natural, may grow too strong. We have been victimized. We feel violated," he said. "Anger is never a solution. It will not ease our pain. Anger will not change the world. It will not protect us. And anger will never bring hope. And anger does not honor Detective Vicky Armel or Master Police Officer Michael Garbarino."