NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – It was a heartbreaking sight as the family of Rafael Ramos, one of the officers murdered by a gunman on Saturday, spent part of their Christmas saying thank you to his fellow officers at the site of the shooting.
As CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reported, Ramos’ uncle thanked the officers one-by-one and more than a dozen other family members carried roses to the memorial site; lighting candles and shedding tears.
“So they can have closure and say thank you to the people in the city of New York, but also say thank you to the police department,” explained family friend Juan Rodriguez.
Emotions ran high as each family member shook hands with the officers watching over the memorial site and hugged each one working this Christmas night.
Rodriguez led a round of applause for the officers, and said the family just wants the turmoil in the city to cease.
“There’s a certain group creating problems in the city and unfortunately elected leaders are feeding into that and it’s creating chaos. This is why we’re here,” he said.
New Yorkers continued to pay their respects at the memorial to Ramos and officer Wenjian Liu in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Christmas Day.
Many of the visitors were off-duty police men and women who brought along their loved ones, Rincon reported.
“One of the first things I did after my kids opened their gifts, I told my wife that we’d have to come down here,” said Sgt. Kevin Prentice. “You have families right now that’s in deepest sorrow, right now, because of the loss of their loved ones. And while everyone else is celebrating, they’re planning a funeral.”
Members of the New York Hispanic Clergy organization also paid a visit to lay a wreath and show support for the mayor’s request for a pause in protests.
“We want officer Ramos and officer Liu to be laid to rest peacefully, and the Hispanic Clergy support that moratorium, if you will,” said Manhattan pastor Rev. Gabriel Salguero.
“And we also would like to ask any community leader or any leaders of this city who are sending a divisive message to stop,” added Brooklyn pastor Rev. Erick Salgado.
Even PBA President Patrick Lynch paid a visit to the site, but said it was only to say a prayer and not make any public comment, Rincon reported.
The memorial site also inspired people who never even knew the two officers.
Korean native Christene Kim sang solemn hymns on her eukalale.
Retired NYPD Sgt. Ariscedes Montavo said he came to the site as soon as he got to New York City for the holidays from his home in Virginia.
“We got here last night and this was one of my first priorities was to come here with my family and pay respect,” he said.
Some were struck by how much the memorial has grown.
“It was two or three candles, and now look at it,” Ivette Del Valle told CBS2’s Sonia Rincon. Del Valle has family who are auxilliary officers and made it a point to stop by while she’s visiting her family.
“You have to see more of your family, because, you never know,” she said.
Sophia Smith visited, telling 1010 WINS she was thinking about the families of the slain officers.
“They, like, can’t enjoy their Christmas. They can’t be together,” Smith said.
In a Christmas message to NYPD personnel working today, Commissioner Bill Bratton said “When your shift has ended, be sure to take the time to hold your loved ones close.”
Bratton called on officers to remember their duty to protect the humblest among us on this holiday, adding “In the face of sorrows, be of good cheer. In the face of danger, be resolute. And, as ever, be safe.”
Bratton urged officers to continue to follow the department’s safety directive requiring them to stay in pairs, Rincon reported.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on New Yorkers to remember Liu and Ramos.
“New York is strongest when everyone joins together, and this holiday I ask all New Yorkers to join me in pausing to remember NYPD Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos and offer support to their families any way we can,” Cuomo said in a Christmas Day statement.
Donations to the Liu and Ramos families can be made through several charitable organizations, including the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. To make a donation, click here.
Ramos will be laid to rest at Christ Tabernacle Church in Glendale, Queens this Saturday. A wake for Ramos will be held at the same location Friday evening.
Vice President Joe Biden will attend the funeral. More than 20,000 officers from around the country are expected.
JetBlue said it has offered to fly the families of Ramos and Liu to the funeral. The airline is also offering free flights for up to two officers from each department along the routes it serves, space permitting.
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